| Mamata Banerjee at the news conference. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Dec. 28: Another bandh awaits Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee today announced that she would call a day’s strike in January to protest against the government’s liquor policy, administration of healthcare, hiked levies and lawlessness. The date has not been finalised.
“I am personally against bandhs as they inconvenience people. But this time I was left with no option but to call one as a last resort to put pressure on the CPM-led government, which is determined to impose various taxes, even on livestock,” Mamata said.
The government had decided to issue licences to about 3,000 liquor off-shops to bolster revenue at a time of crunch. But after some of the Left Front partners raised objections, it agreed to reconsider.
Mamata said: “Instead of opening 3,000 liquor off-shops, the CPM should open the same number of hospitals or educational institutions. Does the CPM want to corrupt our youths'”
On her arrival from Delhi this afternoon, the Union minister without portfolio addressed a crowded news conference at the Trinamul Congress’ Tiljala office. Mamata said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will address a Trinamul rally on the Brigade Parade Grounds in February. “We shall finalise the date for the rally as soon as we get a green signal from the PMO,” she added.
Political circles are seeing Mamata’s announcement of a string of programmes as a desperate attempt to revive the beleaguered party organisation ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Many of her loyalists feel that the bandh and the Brigade rally will help Mamata keep her flock intact. By announcing the series of programmes, Mamata also made it clear that she would not tie up with the state Congress to fight the CPM.
State Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee today reiterated that the party would welcome Mamata if she snapped relations with the NDA.
The Trinamul leader charged the “bankrupt” state government with borrowing heavily. “Desperate to repay the huge amount of loans, the government has already imposed various taxes. Besides, in the coming days, liquor will be available even in grocery shops. Imagine how the CPM is busy corrupting our youths,” said Mamata.
She was also concerned about the law and order situation. “Even members of the Ganatantrik Mahila Samity are not safe here,” she said, referring to the alleged looting and molestation of members of the CPM’s women’s wing at Joynagar on Sunday. “The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has failed miserably,” she added.
Trinamul MPs, MLAs and councillors will organise “law-violation programmes” on January 9. That day, Mamata said, a huge rally will snake through the city centre. “Being a minister I cannot violate law, but I will certainly join the rally,” she added. On January 20, the party will organise demonstrations across the state.