As the ruling Trinamool Congress confirmed founder Mamata Banerjee as its chief for another six-year term, the West Bengal chief minister called on regional parties to come together to defeat the BJP, against which she launched her strongest attack in recent times.
Addressing thousands of her party’s workers and leaders at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata, Ms Banerjee lashed out against what she called the BJP’s alleged attempt to label her anti-Hindu. “Hum bebakuf nahi hai (I am no fool),” she thundered. “They tried to stop me from entering Jagannath Temple but they cannot decide who is a big Hindu and who is a small Hindu. Or which Hindu is Muslim.”
At Puri in Odisha where the famous Jagannath temple is, a handful of people had raised “go back Mamata” slogans, alleging that Ms Banerjee supports the consumption of beef.
“The BJP is spending crores. They are putting my photo on social media and putting words in my mouth. They say I ate beef,” she said, adding, “What I eat is my business but they have captured social media and saying all kinds of things and if anyone objects, they are threatening them with murder.”
The chief minister, accused by the BJP of minority appeasement, alleged that the rival party is “maligning Hinduism,” saying, “Hinduism is not the BJP’s religion. The BJP’s religion is swords, murder, killing, riots, all against the Constitution.”
Ms Banerjee also accused the BJP, which rules at the Centre, of using central agency CBI against 12 leaders of her party in the Narada case. “How many of my MPs will you put in jail? Don’t worry, when they emerge, it will be as heroes,” she said.
In her call to parties to come together against the BJP, Ms Banerjee said, “Given what is going on in the country, it is a junoon, a war on people. It can’t go on. I call on all regional parties to come together.”
Her party she declared, would jointly fight elections with other parties in different states and even separately.
The Bengal chief minister, who had floated the idea of a federal front of regional parties some years ago, met her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik yesterday amid speculation that she could revive those efforts. Both leaders said they did not discuss politics.
In a rare sign of growing worries about Left votes going to the BJP, as in the recent by-election at South Kanthi Assembly seat, Ms Banerjee said to party workers, “The CPM people are going to the BJP. Don’t let them. Tell them to join us.”
The Trinamool won the by-election by a long mile as expected, but the BJP came second, upping its vote share from 10 per cent last year to 30 per cent. Bengal’s main opposition, the CPM, was pushed to a poor third. In fact it lost its deposit.