Mamata Banerjee with Trinamul Balurghat candidate Arpita Ghosh in the South Dinajpur town on Wednesday. Picture by Mithun Roy
Balurghat, April 16: Mamata Banerjee today returned the compliment to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for mentioning the Saradha scam at a rally in Siliguri.
Six days after Modi hit Mamata where it hurts the most, the Bengal chief minister spoke about how a prime ministerial candidate does not keep track of his wife. Mamata did not name Modi but it was clear that she was referring to the recent controversy surrounding Modi’s marital status.
“Keu keu prodhan mantri prarthi thik korche. Nijer bou er sab khonj rakhena keu keu. Era jodi desher neta hoi, kemon hobe? Darun. (Some people are deciding on the prime ministerial candidate. There are people who do not have all the information about their wives. If such people become the leader of the country, what will happen? Great),” Mamata said, wearing a smirk, during a meeting at Balurghat this afternoon.
The rally was held in support of Trinamul Balurghat nominee Arpita Ghosh. Mamata addressed two more rallies in South Dinajpur — Barahar in Kumarganj and Gangarampur — but she steered clear of Modi’s personal life at these venues.
On April 10, the BJP prime ministerial candidate for the first time publicly acknowledged his marriage, which he had neither denied nor confirmed before, in his nomination papers for the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat.
This sparked off a controversy with several leaders — including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi — raising questions on why Modi was silent on his marriage with Jashodaben for 46 years.
Although the Congress later clarified that it did not want to raise personal issues, Mamata took it up from where the Congress had left.
“There are some who do not name their wives. If they give names, they don’t disclose their address,” said the Bengal chief minister.
Today’s comments by Mamata meant that she was making a departure from her line of attack on Modi.
Unlike in past rallies, where she had drilled holes into Modi’s claims about the success of the Gujarat model of development and accused him for the riots of 2002, today her focus was on Modi’s personal life.
“Why did Modi attack her on Saradha? It was unnecessary,” said a senior Trinamul leader, trying to justify what Mamata said.
During his Siliguri rally, Modi not only referred to the Saradha scam, he also accused the Bengal government of carrying out “loot” in the state.
Mamata also responded to the criticisms about the selection of Arpita as the candidate. Sections of Trinamul and the Opposition parties have called her an “outsider”.
“Why is Arpita being called an outsider? She is also from Bengal… She is dedicated and sincere. She has been by my side since the days of Singur, Netai and Nandigram,” Mamata said.
Though Trinamul has expanded its organisation significantly in South Dinajpur — which used to be a Left fief — dissent over Arpita’s candidature has raised questions over whether the Calcutta-based theatre personality can win in the election.
The fact that all is not well in the Trinamul camp in South Dinajpur was clear as large swathes of the Uttamasha ground were vacant, despite attempts by the local leaders to fill up the venue.
“Today it is very hot and the time is also not conducive. So many of our supporters and cadres did not come to the ground,” said a local Trinamul leader. According to IMD sources, the temperature at 8.30am in Balurghat was 28.2°C at 8.30am and 32.2°C at 5.30pm.