Rahul Gandhi mingles with the crowd at the rally on the Shahid Minar grounds on Thursday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
May 8: Rahul Gandhi today followed in the footsteps of rival Narendra Modi to slam the Mamata Banerjee government over the Saradha scam, an issue that has been pitched to the national platform by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
“Mamatadi had fought against the Left Front and corruption. But what is happening now? The government is trying to protect those involved in the Saradha scam, which affected 20 lakh people. Is any probe taking place?” Rahul said at a rally on the Shahid Minar grounds to campaign for Congress nominees Somen Mitra (Calcutta North) and Mala Roy (Calcutta South).
Modi, too, had yesterday sought to draw a distinction between Mamata the Opposition leader and Mamata the administrator. “Parivartan Bangal mein aana tha, lekin parivartan Didi mein aa gaya (Change was supposed to come to Bengal, but Didi changed),” the BJP leader had said at a rally in Calcutta.
Modi’s criticism of the Bengal government over the default crisis during his frequent visits to the state in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections could have prompted the Congress high command to raise its pitch against Mamata, sources in the state Congress said.
After Modi held the Bengal government responsible for the Saradha scandal at a rally in Siliguri on April 10, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi also referred to the issue to attack Mamata during visits to the state.
At rallies in Malda and Murshidabad on April 19, Rahul accused the Bengal government of protecting those behind the scandal.
“Chorer maayer boro gola (A thief’s mother shouts the loudest),” Mamata had thundered at a rally hours later.
on April 22, Sonia told a public meeting in North Dinajpur that “chit fund companies in connivance with the state government looted” poor people.
Today, Rahul, who visited Bengal for the third time to campaign for the polls, expanded the ambit of his attack, referring to the Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET) fiasco.
“Around 55 lakh people suffered in the TET scam. Who were the people who benefited? Unke Opposition ka kaam barhiya tha, sarkar ka bekaar hai (She did a great job as an Opposition leader, but has been a failure in power),” the Congress vice-president said, drawing a loud applause from the 3,500-strong gathering.
It was not clear how Rahul arrived at the figure, but allegations have been made that many people did not get jobs although they cleared the TET.
Like Modi, Rahul attempted to connect with the people of Bengal, speaking about building a “long-term relationship”.
The Bengal government’s performance in the central 100-day rural job scheme was also criticised by the Congress vice-president.
“The Bengal government only provides jobs for 33 days (a year), while a state like Assam gives 90 days. We introduced the Food Security Act to guarantee that nobody goes to sleep without food, but it has not been implemented in Bengal. Shame, shame,” Rahul said.
At a rally in West Midnapore earlier in the day, Rahul, like Modi, sensed “anger” in Mamata’s speeches.
“Whatever I say, I say with love, not with anger. But hearing Mamataji or Modiji speak, one can sense the anger in their voices. Modiji ko main nahin samjha paoonga, unki naiyya paar ho chuki hain. Aap ko samjha sakta hoon Mamataji. Pyaar se bhi kaam ho sakta hai (I can’t make Modiji understand, he is beyond it. But I can make you understand, Mamataji. One can get things done with love),” Rahul said.
The Congress leader said he saw a “partnership” between Trinamul and the BJP. “I can see a partnership developing between Trinamul and the BJP. Mamataji was a part of the NDA. The first ‘M’ in Mamata stands for her name, while the second one is for Modi. It could be vice versa, too. But a partnership is building,” Rahul said.