West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Martyrs' Day rally in Kolkata (Photo Source: PTI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday alleged that central agencies are threatening Trinamool Congress leaders and elected representatives with prison term in chit fund scam cases, if they do not join the BJP. Addressing the Martyrs' Day rally in Kolkata, she accused the BJP of trying to replicate the "Karnataka model of horse-trading" by luring party MLAs with money and other perks.
The BJP, however, dared Banerjee to name the CBI officers who had allegedly threatened Trinamool Congress leaders to join the saffron camp and denied her other charges. Banerjee, speaking at her first major political rally after Lok Sabha polls that have given BJP an edge, also announced that the party will launch a state-wide programme on July 26, demanding return of black money allegedly "siphoned off" by BJP.
The move is apparently aimed at weakening "cut money" protests faced by Trinamool's elected representatives from people demanding return of illegal commission they had allegedly collected from beneficiaries of government schemes.
"Central agencies are summoning our leaders and threatening elected representatives over chit fund scams, asking them to get in touch with BJP leaders or face prison terms and consequences like Sudip Bandopadhyay or Tapas Pal. They are also calling a few actors and other eminent personalities," she claimed.
Bandopadhyay, Trinamool’s LS party leader, and Pal, a former party MP, were arrested by CBI in Rose Valley ponzi scam in January 2017 and December 2016. Currently, both are out on bail.
"BJP is offering Rs 2 crore and petrol pump to our MLAs to switch sides. At Gram Sabha-level, amount offered is Rs 20 lakh. Just like in Karnataka, it is indulging in horse-trading everywhere, and trying to replicate that model. BJP thinks it can buy out everybody," she alleged.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said, "I challenge her to name CBI officers who threatened her party leaders. If she is unable to name any officer, she should refrain from making baseless allegations".
Reacting to Banerjee's charge that BJP was luring TMC MLAs, Ghosh said none of them, not even CM, had such a "high market value". The TMC chief asked party cadres to launch a movement against BJP demanding "return of black money and 'cut money' taken in Ujjawala scheme" from July 26.
Criticising BJP and its policies during her 60-minute speech, she did not take names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP chief Amit Shah. "I had a noble intention when I cautioned my partymen to ensure that people are not deprived of our government's welfare schemes...But BJP misinterpreted it," she said.
She asked BJP from where did it get money to campaign for general election in such a luxurious way. "Ask BJP to return black money first. They had promised to give back Rs 15 lakh. Where is that money? Return cut money taken in Rafale deal," the TMC supremo said.
"From July 26, we would launch a statewide agitation demanding return black money and return cut money taken by BJP leaders, while providing free LPG connections to poor. We have received complaints from leaders of their party (the BJP). We have all documents and would very soon start an investigation into it," Banerjee said.
Ghosh said BJP was not afraid of any probe as none of its leaders are involved in corruption. The CM asserted that her party would bounce back in 2021 Assembly polls, and alleged BJP won the general election by "manipulating" EVMs. "The 2019 election result is not history, but a mystery. I request EC to conduct next panchayat and municipal polls through ballot paper," she said.
Banerjee claimed that BJP government at the Centre would not last "more than two years" considering the way it was functioning. "Credit for smooth conduct of Parliament goes to opposition parties, not those in power. They are bringing bills at midnight and passing it without any prior information (given to opposition)," she said.
She also criticised BJP government in Uttar Pradesh for Sonbhadra killings and detention of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi. "If three persons are killed in West Bengal, a report is placed in Parliament, saying the figure is 30," she claimed.
BJP was behaving as if it had captured West Bengal by winning "just" 18 of 42 seats in general election (the TMC won 22 seats), she said, adding that "It is trying to take over our party offices and beating up our people. We, too, had won in 2009 LS polls by getting 26 seats during Left rule, but we never behaved in such a manner".
She dubbed BJP as "a party of parasites" that is banking on goons and "rejected" leaders of CPI(M) and Congress. "We don't need CPI(M) and Congress to fight BJP. But we will urge them to not cut off the branch on which they are sitting," she said.
She accused BJP-led central government of trying to prevent TMC supporters from coming to the rally by cancelling several trains to Kolkata. Ghosh, however, said more special trains were put into service Sunday.
Banerjee asked party workers not to "leave an inch of space to BJP", and be more humble to people and apologise for mistakes committed in the past. "There are people who want me dead. But I am not bothered. As long as I am alive I will continue to work for people," she said.
On Banerjee's allegation of horse-trading, CPI(M) said TMC is being paid back in their own coin. "In previous July 21 rallies of TMC, we used to witness CPI(M) and Congress MLAs and leaders joining the TMC. Now they are facing the music," senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.