Kolkata: “Trinamool ideology will be the only one in the country. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) will be the party to bring the opposition together,” West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said at the party’s annual Martyrs’ Day rally in Kolkata Thursday.
The central Kolkata venue was packed with lakhs of Trinamool supporters and party workers amid heavy rain as the event kicked off after a two-year Covid break.
Banerjee took centerstage to rousing applause and victory slogans. Talking about the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, she took aim at the BJP: “I challenge, the BJP will not get majority in 2024 and then the others will come together.”
The rally is a key event in the TMC calendar as it eyes a national role to consolidate its place as the toughest challenger to the BJP at the Centre.
Banerjee said the “BJP was proof of monumental incompetence”, asking the public to “install a pro-people government”. “This Lok Sabha election, it won’t be an election for selection but rejection,” said Banerjee, three-time chief minister of West Bengal.
“We will win all the seats in West Bengal. In Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Goa, Meghalaya, we will also win with the help of friends,” she added.
While counting for the presidential polls was under way in Parliament House in New Delhi, Trinamool MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay asked from the stage: “Why did the Election Commission decide to declare presidential poll results today? Why was (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi summoned by the Enforcement Directorate today?
“They want to divert attention from the TMC’s programme here.”
Referring to Banerjee’s speech, BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said Mamata “had made the same claims in 2019”.
“She even got all the opposition leaders and rallied here in Kolkata and then we saw the results (of the Lok Sabha polls). She said ‘BJP hatao (remove BJP)’ but it had no impact. Mamata’s leaders are circling CBI and ED offices and are neck deep in corruption. Let her manage her own party first and we will manage the country.”
Meanwhile, political analysts saw an important statement in Banerjee’s speech, citing her remark about “BJP not winning majority in 2024”.
“This comment of Mamata Banerjee was the single most important line spoken today at the rally. She has made it clear that there will be a post-poll alliance in 2024 and not a pre-poll one,” said political observer Udayan Bandyopadhyay, a political science professor at Kolkata’s Bangabasi College. “Only after the results will the Trinamool decide whom to join hands with to take on the BJP.”
He also said “there wasn’t any fresh message in Banerjee’s speech”. “She used economic issues and problems gripping the common man — like unemployment and fuel price hike — to attack the BJP,” he added.
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On GST and corruption
Taking direct aim at the Modi government, Banerjee lashed out at the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposition on food items such as curd, rice puffs and lassi. “What will the poor eat and how much GST do we have to pay if we die?” she asked.
Taking on the central agencies, which the opposition accuses the government of misusing, she added: “If the CBI or ED call you for an investigation, serve them a plate of rice puffs.”
BJP MP and Bengal party unit chief Dr Sukanta Majumdar, however, claimed the state government never opposed the imposition of GST. “What is the Trinamool complaining about? The state will also get a share of GST. If they don’t raise any protest means they support the decision,” he said at a news conference in Howrah.
Meanwhile, on the backfoot over the alleged West Bengal School Service Commission recruitment scam and recurring accusations of TMC leaders taking “cut money” from welfare scheme beneficiaries, Banerjee said corruption won’t be tolerated. “If any person extorts money in the name of the TMC, take him to the nearest police station,” she instructed her party workers.
How did Martyrs’ Day become TMC show of strength?
On 21 July 1993, the West Bengal Youth Congress under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee lost 13 of its cadres in police firing while protesting against the then CPM government led by Jyoti Basu in Kolkata. Banerjee, too, sustained injuries along with other senior leaders like Saugata Roy who were all part of the Congress then.
In 2011, when Banerjee took over as CM of West Bengal, she not only set up an inquiry into the 1993 police action but also announced the day as ‘Martyrs’ Day’. It has since been observed thus by the TMC (founded in 1998) annually to commemorate the victims and send out a political message.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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