KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “insulted” migrant workers returning to the state on ‘Shramik Special’ trains by calling them ‘Corona Express’, Home Minister Amit Shah said on Tuesday, as he tried to reach out to the vast constituency of harried migrants and their families.
Shah asserted the migrant workers will now ensure the “exit” of the Banerjee government in the 2021 assembly polls.
He also attacked the ruling TMC supremo over the “industry of political violence” being run in the state.
Addressing a virtual rally for Bengal from the national capital, Shah, one of the architects of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, asserted the people of the state will reduce Banerjee to a “political refugee” for opposing the new law in order to “appease” a minority community.
“UP received 1,700 trains, Bihar 1,500. I was stunned when Mamata didi called Shramik Special trains coming to Bengal Corona Express. You insulted the migrants, you rubbed salt into their wounds, and now this Corona Express will lead you to your exit (from power). People will not forget this insult,” he said.
Banerjee had criticised the railways for running “too many” Shramik Special trains resulting in a surge in the number of COVID 19 cases, and deprecatingly called them Corona Express.
“Bengal is the only state in the entire country where the culture of political violence is flourishing. The only industry that is prospering in Bengal is of making crude bombs and illegal weapons.
“Bengal is the only state where communal violence is still going on. It must stop. I assure you that BJP isn’t here to bring a revolution or only to expand its support base. It is also here to revive Bengal’s rich cultural heritage…to make it ‘sonar Bangla’ (made of gold) again,” he told the BJP’s virtual ‘Jan Samvad’ rally.
The BJP, Shah said, won a staggering 303 Lok Sabha seats but he held the 18 it pocketed in West Bengal dear.
“We want this atmosphere of terror to go,” the former BJP president said, and urged people to vote the party to power in the assembly elections next year.
Underscoring the need for a political change in the state, Shah said even those to voted to dislodge the Left Front government were now saing the Communist dispensation was better than the one presided over by Banerjee.
“You gave the Communists 34 years, you gave 10 years to Didi. Now give a chance to Modiji, and you will see the change. Bihar, which was once a ‘bimaru’ (laggard) state, is on the path of development ever since the NDA government took charge. Uttar Pradesh is moving ahead in just three years,” Shah said.
Indicating that the new citizenship law will be a major electoral plank in the assembly polls, Shah demanded that Banerjee explain the reasons for opposing the legislation.
“This law was brought to help the refugees. Even Mahatma Gandhi had favoured such a law after Independence. Mamata didi needs to come clean on why she opposed the CAA. What is your problem if Namshudras (an impoverished caste in Bengal) and other such communities live respectably in the country?
“You are opposing refugees getting citizenship. The people of Bengal will reduce you to a political refugee after the 2021 assembly polls. Your opposition to CAA stems from your desire to appease the minorities,” he said, targeting Banerjee.
The senior BJP leader also assailed the West Bengal government for not joining the PM Kissan Samman Nidhi for farmers and Ayushman Bharat health scheme for poor.
“Do the poor people of Bengal have no right to receive free and quality treatment? Why then you don’t allow the Ayushman Bharat scheme here? Mamata Ji, stop doing politics over the rights of poor people. We can do politics elsewhere and settle scores (do, do haath kar lenge),” he said.
He said the mulish approach of the TMC government was depriving the farmers of West Bengal Rs 6,000 the Centre gave them in other states.
Accusing the TMC government of patronising corruption, the former BJP president alleged public welfare funds sent by the Centre were siphoned off by the “syndicates” run by the ruling party.
“There is corruption everywhere. It continued unabated even when the people of Bengal were reeling under the impact of cyclone Amphan. We want to ask where all this money went? Why did the syndicates eat up all the money? If we want development in Bengal, we need to bring the BJP to power,” said.
In West Bengal, ‘syndicate’ refers to a group of businessmen backed by the ruling party who operate mainly in the areas witnessing a realty boom and extort money from home buyers.
He listed out steps taken by the Modi government for the state’s welfare in the last six years.
Shah said under the 13th Finance Commission, Manmohan Singh’s UPA 2 government gave West Bengal Rs 1.32 lakh crore in five years.
“The Modi government, on the other hand, gave Rs 4.48 lakh crore to push Bengal forward on the road to development. But the TMC government has done nothing for the development of the state,” he said.
The Modi government, he said, gave an yearly account of its performance, and demanded that Banerjee come out with a report card of her ministry.
“You give an account of the performance of your government. But while doing so don’t come out with data of how many bombs were exploded or how many BJP workers were killed by TMC goons,” he said, taking a swipe at Banerjee over the alleged killing of saffron party workers in political violence.
Shah also dwelt on the contentious issue of abrogation of provisions of Articles 370 and 35(a) of the Constitution relating to Kashmir and praised the prime minister for it.
Referring to the Shah Bano case, the home minister said the Congress government, despite having an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha, did not dare touch the issue of instant triple talaq out of fear of backlash from the minority community.
The Union home minister lauded the Narendra Modi government for its bold steps in the aftermath of the Uri and Pulwama attacks.
“Nobody uttered a word when terrorists intruded and beheaded our soldiers with impunity when the UPA was in power. Our surgical and air strikes sent out a strong message that we have zero tolerance to terrorism, no act of cross-border terrorism will go unpunished. The government is committed to protecting India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
Though he did not name China, Shah’s remarks came when Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a tense standoff in eastern Ladakh. PTI PNT
“When Modi became the prime minister, his government outlawed instant triple talaq,” he said.