Kolkata: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah ended a two-day tour of West Bengal on Thursday with a scathing attack on chief minister Mamata Banerjee, while formally announcing at a rally that his party was looking to win at least half the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections.
Shah’s attack on Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief, was two-pronged: he slammed her for the violence in the recently held panchayat elections in the state and for lack of development in the state. Shah on Thursday addressed a rally in Purulia, a backward district, where the BJP has made sharp inroads. The BJP claims three of its workers from the district were recently killed because of their political affiliation.
Shah said some 20 million people were not allowed to vote, referring to the wide-spread violence witnessed during the panchayat elections. He met the families of the three BJP workers the party says were killed.
Alleging lack of development in West Bengal, Shah said that in the seven years since Banerjee took office, the state’s outstanding debt has ballooned from ₹ 2 trillion to ₹ 3.5 trillion. Women in Purulia still have to walk 5km to fetch water, Shah claimed.
Many homes still don’t have power, and the cut-price food grains which the state government claims to be distributing among the underprivileged are actually looted by local satraps of the Trinamool Congress, Shah said.
According to a section of Trinamool Congress leaders from Purulia, some of these allegations had influenced voters during the panchayat elections. They admitted that the allegations were not entirely baseless, but said corrective action is being taken led by the Trinamool Congress chief herself. These leaders asked not to be identified.
Shah then turned to West Bengal’s decision to say no to Modicare, the national health insurance scheme under which the centre is to provide healthcare cover to some 100 million families. “Mamata Banerjee said the people of Bengal do not need insurance cover," Shah said, adding that she had deprived the state of several other central schemes. Central funds are getting usurped by cartels run by Trinamool Congress leaders, Shah alleged.
Shah concluded by asking Banerjee to set things right at home before venturing to Delhi to form a grand alliance to take on the BJP.
Trinamool Congress leaders in Kolkata reacted sharply to Shah’s allegations. The state’s finance minister Amit Mitra said the BJP makes tall promises at the time of elections, but eventually, these turn out to be lies. Trinamool Congress’s general secretary Partha Chatterjee said Shah should focus on governance at the centre instead of in West Bengal.