April 13: Mamata Banerjee today issued an impassioned appeal to prevent the division of votes in the first acknowledgement of the uncertainties plaguing the four-cornered elections in Bengal and the BJP’s potential to play spoiler.
“Daya kore samataler vote bhangben na. Amader kei vote din. Ekta vote anya kauke deben na (Please do not divide the votes in the plains. Vote for us. Do not vote for any other party),” the Trinamul leader told a rally in Siliguri.
The appeal specifically referred to the plains against the backdrop of the contest in Darjeeling where the principal party in the hills, the Gorkha Janmutki Morcha, supports the BJP’s candidate.
But the call came at a time the BJP is expected to increase its vote share in several seats in the state. At whose cost the BJP will do so is not clear, leaving Trinamul on tenterhooks.
The chief minister’s appeal came a few hours after she was quoted by PTI as saying in an interview that the BJP had entered the state to “create division” among the people.
Asked if the BJP could cut into Trinamul’s vote, Mamata said: “They are na ghar ka, na ghat ka (neither here nor there). Only during election season, they come to Bengal to create division among people. They will not get even one seat from Bengal.”
The reply could be seen as an indirect reference to the BJP’s support for the Morcha, which is seeking Gorkhaland, but the statement at the Siliguri meeting in the afternoon suggested that the threat of a division of votes was playing on her mind.
Siliguri, where Mamata appealed to people to vote en bloc for her party, is part of the Darjeeling seat and Narendra Modi had campaigned here aggressively.
The BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit got what it wanted — Narendra Modi in a veshti.
Wearing a cotton-polyester mix veshti with a blue border, a striped shirt and a blue-border angavastram, Modi visited Rajinikanth at his Poes Garden home on Sunday evening and spent nearly an hour with the actor, his wife Lata, daughters Aiswarya and Soundarya, their husbands, and Rajini’s grandson Yatra.
On the menu were hot polis (a sweet), murukkus and filter coffee.
Rajinikanth quipped that Modi looked at home in the veshti, and the Gujarat chief minister let slip that he had some help from Tamil officers in his government on how to wear the garment and keep it from coming off.
adu BJP secretary Vanathi Srinivasan, who had originally proposed that Modi wear one, had sent a set of veshtis (silk, cotton and polyster mix) to Ahmedabad for the BJP mascot to choose from, sources in the party said. The angavastram was also sent from Chennai.
“We had left the choice of shirt to him, though most political leaders in Tamil Nadu wear only white shirts,” a BJP functionary added.
The crowd at Modi’s rally in Meenambakkam, a Chennai suburb, went into raptures at the sight and cheered even more when the BJP leader wished them in Tamil on the eve of the Tamil New Year.
Another gesture by Mamata betrayed Trinamul’s concern that Modi’s business-friendly pitch could find resonance among Siliguri’s Hindi-speaking Marwari community, numbering around 80,000.
Mamata took care to issue her appeal in Hindi, too. “Main vinti karna chahungi ke aap meherbani karkey BJP ko vote mat dijiye (I request you not to vote for the BJP),” she said.
She reminded the business community that the BJP was fighting the election on the plank of dividing the state. “In case there is a law-and-order problem, and your business gets affected, the BJP will not be able to come to your rescue,” she said.
Hours before her Siliguri rally, Mamata was at the Darjeeling Chowrasta, where her dais saw the presence of hill community leaders who have tilted towards Trinamul. No representative from the GNLF, which has offered its support, was seen on the dais, though.
Asked by PTI if Trinamul would support a BJP-led government minus Modi, Mamata said: “There are too many ifs and buts in your question. Politics is not about ifs and buts. I have told you I am hopeful about the federal front.”
Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha said Mamata was “scared of the BJP’s steady consolidation” across Bengal because of “the Modi wave” across the country.