Feb. 18: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today told Trinamul workers not to ruin peace during the general strike called by trade unions on Wednesday by indulging in violence.
The urge signals a departure from the past when she had asked people to defy strikes and encouraged her ministers to declare that Trinamul cadres would roam the streets to foil shutdowns.
Addressing a rally in Bishnupur in South 24-Parganas this afternoon, Mamata said: “Dal er karmider abedan korbo, danda, jhanda niye marpit korte jaben na. Aapnader kichhu korte hobe na. Ja korar prashashan korbe (I will request party workers not to get involved in any fight with flags and sticks. You don’t have to do anything. The administration will do whatever has to be done).”
A dozen trade unions have called a general strike on February 20 and an industrial strike on February 21. The Left has extended support for the general shutdown.
According to senior Trinamul leaders, Mamata’s call to party workers today to desist from violence stemmed from her realisation that if clashes took place, the CPM would stand to gain.
A Trinamul minister said: “Our leader has realised that violence now, especially after the Garden Reach incident, would only tarnish the image of our party further and provide the CPM an opportunity to point a finger at us and claim that our party promotes violence.”
Another Trinamul leader, believed to be close to Mamata, said: “Any confrontation which leads to bloodshed would show the party and the government in poor light.”
According to him, this is precisely what the CPM wants and Mamata, unlike in the case of the earlier two strikes, does not want to provide the Left with any further opportunity to do this.
Before the earlier two strikes called by the Left in February and September last year, not only had the Mamata Banerjee government announced pay cuts for government employees who did not go to work, but ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra, had claimed that Trinamul workers would ensure normality on the strike days.
Without naming any party, Mamata today said: “Ora natak korbe… Kono prorochanay pa deben na (They will create drama…. Don’t step into the trap of provocation).”
The chief minister said that the administration would keep the wheels of the state rolling on Wednesday, the day of the general strike.
“We are taking this bandh seriously and not casually. If some people feel they can resort to goondaism and get away with anything, they are wrong. The law will take its own course,” she said.
Mamata folded her hands and urged traders to keep their shops open, transport operators to run their vehicles and teachers to teach in schools and colleges.
Within two hours of Mamata’s announcement, the finance department issued a circular warning government employees of a pay cut if they were absent from work on the strike days.