Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday told voters in Ekbalpore that someone else would become West Become chief minister if she did not manage to get all their votes. She was referring to the September 30 bypoll at south Kolkata’s Bhawanipore from where she is contesting.
“Cast your vote even if it rains. I will suffer if I don’t get even one vote. Don’t be complacent and assume that my victory is ensured. Please don’t do that. If you want to see me as chief minister you must vote for me. Every vote is crucial. If I do not win, someone else will become the chief minister since we are in the majority,” Banerjee said at her first election meeting in Ekbalpore area where members of the Muslim community comprise a sizeable chunk of voters.
Speaking in Hindi and Bengali and using a few Urdu words such as taqdeer (destiny), Banerjee said, “I contested from Nandigram but there was a conspiracy to defeat me. The matter is being heard by a court. It is destiny that I am contesting from Bhawanipore again to become chief minister.”
For the record, TMC trailed the BJP at two Hindu-dominated civic body wards in Bhawanipore in the last two polls that Banerjee won. Around 20% voters in this constituency are Muslims.
“Voters of Kidderpore (of which Ekbalpore is a part) supported me six times when I contested and won the Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat. I am sure you will support me again,” said Banerjee.
“The BJP is a party of liars. They allege that Bengalis are not allowed to perform Durga Puja and Kali Puja. People from all communities freely practice their religions here whereas in Tripura, the government has imposed Section 144 (of the Cr. PC). How can Tripura residents perform Durga Puja?” said Banerjee.
She was referring to the prohibitory orders the Biplab Deb government has imposed till November citing the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this, TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee could not hold the TMC’s first rally in Agartala.
Before the March-April assembly polls, Banerjee surprised everyone when she announced in East Midnapore’s Nandigram that she would contest the local seat against her protégé-turned-adversary, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikari, and not Bhawanipore, her old seat. In the polls held on April 1, Adhikari, the incumbent candidate, defeated her by around 1500 votes and subsequently became the leader of the opposition in the state assembly.
Reacting to Banerjee’s appeal to Ekbalpore voters, Adhikari said, “The person responsible for this bypoll is Suvendu Adhikari. A defeated chief minister is making desperate efforts. She did not learn from the Nandigram lesson.”
Bhawanipore witnessed a flurry of activity on Wednesday as Banerjee, Adhikari, Union petroleum minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta and Bengal BJP’s new president Sukanta Majumdar campaigned in different parts of the constituency.
Majumdar entered into an altercation with the police when he and the BJP workers were stopped from visiting homes of voters at Harish Chatterjee Street where the chief minister lives. The area is marked as a high security zone.
Akash Magharia, deputy commissioner of police (south), who stopped the BJP team, said, “There are restrictions in this zone. Moreover, we could not allow so many people in view of the pandemic. Nobody could show vaccination certificates.”
The highest concentration of Kolkata’s Sikh community is based in Bhawanipore. Puri offered prayers at Gurdwara Sant Kutiya Ji and also visited the ancestral homes of freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose and Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee before meeting voters at several locations.
Banerjee took a dig at Puri saying he should tell voters why price of cooking gas has touched the ceiling.
In a rebuttal, Puri said, “The chief minister should tell people why the state is against imposition of goods and services tax (GST) on petrol and diesel. A major component of fuel prices in Bengal comprises state tax. She should think before making this a political issue.”
While addressing residents of Lord Sinha Road, where non-Bengali Hindu voters and members of the business community are in the majority, Adhikari attacked the chief minister.
“What has this government given in five months? The defeated chief minister only offers doles and subsidies. Bengal’s debt burden is hovering around ₹5,00,000 crore. Never expect jobs and industries here,” said Adhikari.