Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee hit back Thursday at extortion allegations leveled against him by the BJP, saying if charges against him are proved the opposition party will not have to do much as he will “walk to the gallows”.
Since October last year, BJP state and national leaders, including the Union home minister Amit Shah, have been singling out Banerjee in their speeches, calling him “tolabaaj bhaipo” (extortionist nephew in Bengali) and accusing him of amassing wealth through unfair means.
“Let the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate conduct a probe. If it is proved that I have made even a penny through corruption you won’t have to do anything. I will voluntarily walk to the gallows and hang myself,” said Banerjee amid loud applause at a well-attended TMC rally at Gangarampur in South Dinajpur district in north Bengal.
After defecting from the Trinamool last month, former minister Suvendu Adhikari has intensified the attack on Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.
“You do not have the courage to take my name and always refer to me as bhaipo so that I cannot sue you in court. You call me tolabaaj but you are the one who was seen in the (Narada sting operation) video accepting money,” Banerjee said without naming Adhikari.
Reacting to Banerjee’s remarks, Adhikari, while addressing a rally at Tamluk in East Midnapore later in the afternoon, said, “The tolabaaj bhaipo has to tell the people why all government contracts are given to some specific people in Kolkata and what is the source of his prosperity. Even school bags and bicycles given to students are so sub-standard that these have to be repaired before use.”
“Despite all the criticism they face, CPI(M) and Left leaders did a lot of good work. The TMC ruined everything. In the education sector, for example, appointment of teachers has stopped and corruption has crept in,” said Adhikari.
Making a radical statement, Adhikari said not all leaders from the TMC-run civic bodies in East Midnapore should be inducted into the BJP. “I personally know that some of them have made millions through corruption.”
Branding the BJP’s national leaders as “outsiders”, Banerjee said, “they neither speak or understand Bengali nor know the history and culture of Bengal.
“Bengal will not bow before Gujarat. Nobody can teach us (Bengalis) patriotism,” said Banerjee.
The leader targeted the BJP on a host of issues, ranging from the Doklam standoff and demonetisation to corruption.
“It has been four years since we had demonetisation. India’s GDP has gone down from 8% to minus 4%. Who will answer for that?” he said.
“Before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, PM Modi said he will not spare any criminal and corrupt person and now the BJP is inducting all the thieves. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Modi made a long speech on Pulwama. We also want the Centre to crush the threats posed by Pakistan. But why are Modi and Amit Shah silent on China?” Banerjee said.
“Mamata Banerjee used to live in a house with tiled roof and wear white saree and hawai chappal (sandals) before coming to power in 2011. She still lives the same life. On the other hand, Modi, who used to ride a car worth Rs 10 lakh before 2014, now goes around in a bullet-proof car worth Rs 6 crore,” said Banerjee.
He also called BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s son Akash and BJP state president Dilip Ghosh “goonda” (ruffian) by taking their names.
Banerjee is on a five-day tour of the north Bengal districts where the BJP won seven of the region’s eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and now poses a challenge to the ruling party. He is visiting the area to address infighting and organizational issues plaguing the TMC.
In 2019, the TMC’s tally in the Lok Sabha came down from 34 seats to 22. In terms of the 56 assembly segments in the eight Lok Sabha seats in north Bengal, the BJP was ahead of the TMC in 35.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, spent three days in north Bengal in mid-December. BJP leaders of both state and national level, including national president J P Nadda are also frequently camping in north Bengal.
The West Bengal assembly has 294 seats and Amit Shah has declared that BJP will oust the TMC government by winning more than 200 seats.