Mamata Banerjee at Madhyamgram on Friday and file picture of Narendra Modi
The relentless thrust on the BJP has left little doubt which rival is weighing the heaviest on Mamata Banerjee’s mind as she heads to the uncharted territory of a four-cornered contest in Bengal in this general election. On Friday, Mamata raised the pitch at two back-to-back meetings in Krishnagar and Madhyamgram, coining a slogan, challenging Narendra Modi’s performance in Gujarat and cautioning against attempts to divide Bengal. Subhasish Chaudhuri and Arnab Ganguly of The Telegraph pick up some of the arrows that flew from the dais.
A new slogan
The chant of “NaMo-NaMo” has run into a counter: “No-No”.
“Hathath BJP-r sathey aneker bhaab hoyechhe…. Sab Namo-Namo korchhe, ami bolchhi No-No, (Some people have developed a fancy for the BJP and are chanting ‘Namo-Namo’. I want people to say, ‘No-No’),” Mamata said.
Not to forget: Mamata has a proven ability to come up with catchy slogans. Remember Maa-Mati-Manush? Few took it seriously — until it changed Bengal’s political landscape. However, slogans alone do not win battles. “Hoi ebar, noi never (either this time or never)” was an instant hit — in 2001. It took a decade but the slogan was proved wrong.
Mamata has not referred to Modi by his name at any of her recent meetings — something that she herself commented
upon on Friday. “Onekey bolen ami naam kori na keno. Ami karo naam kori na. Ami soujannyotai biswas kori, tai ami political policy niye katha boli, samalochona kori. Ami naam nebo keno (Many people ask me why I don’t take names. I don’t take names because I believe in courtesy. That’s why I talk about political policies and criticise them. Why should I name people)?” Mamata asked.
Not to forget: Not that Mamata always avoids taking names. On January 30 at the Brigade Parade Grounds, referring to the Nandigram police firing, she had said: “Action will be taken against the senior officers who opened fire on the instructions of Buddhadeb-babu.”
Wearing the hat of a social scientist, Mamata tried to drill holes into Modi’s development doctrine.
“They have 20 ports, while we have two and those are suffering because of lower draught,” Mamata said, referring to Gujarat’s geographical advantage.
Not to forget: Gujarat, which boasts the longest coastline in the country, does have deep-draught seaports that do not require dredging. It is also true that the two ports in Bengal — Calcutta and Haldia — need dredging.
But non-availability of land for dumping silt is standing in the way of dredging in Bengal. The chief minister cannot escape responsibility as her protests over land acquisition had derailed a plan to use land in Jelingham in East Midnapore for dumping the silt.
A proposed deep-sea port on Sagar Island has been approved by Delhi. But until the Bengal government creates the infrastructure to connect the port with the mainland, the plan will remain on paper
“Bengal is more populated than Gujarat…. I would like to see how the government there can deliver development if the Centre deducts Rs 74,000 crore from its income,” Mamata said, referring to Bengal’s indebtedness.
Not to forget: Gujarat indeed has a lower debt burden
Child mortality rate at the all-India level is 46 per cent, in Gujarat it is 42 per cent and in Bengal, it is just 31 per cent, said Mamata.
Not to forget: Bengal does fare better than Gujarat in terms of child mortality rates. But it is measured as the number of deaths of children aged up to 5 per 1,000 live births. Mamata mentioned the figure as a percentage.