Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday reminded Union minister Giriraj Singh that she had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi thrice over the release of central funds held up for years and had sought another appointment, appearing to call the BJP “pickpockets”.
Mamata refused to dignify with a response Singh’s allegedly misogynist remarks on her dance with Salman Khan and other filmstars at the Kolkata International Film Festival on Tuesday, saying “Arrey chhoro (Let it be).”
The chief minister, on her way to north Bengal, was asked by journalists at Calcutta airport to respond to the Union rural development and panchayati raj minister’s suggestion that she should meet the Prime Minister regarding the frozen funds.
“I have heard what Giriraj Singh had to say on record in Parliament. That ‘Mamataji should meet the Prime Minister’. For your information, I must tell him, I met the Prime Minister in this regard about thrice, and again we are asking to meet him, for his time,” Mamata said.
“Because we have the Dilli Chalo programme.... We have already written for permission to be granted to us by Delhi police, and then we will decide the dates,” she added.
Trinamul claims Bengal has central dues amounting to over Rs 1.15 lakh crore, of which around Rs 15,000 crore is on account of the 100-day rural job scheme MGNREGA and the Awas Yojana alone. The rural development ministry under Singh is in charge of releasing funds under the MGNREGA.
On November 23, the Trinamul Congress chief had said a “Dilli Chalo” march would happen again and she would seek an appointment with Modi to meet him with all her MPs.
“The most fake job cards have been traced in Uttar Pradesh, did the ministry take action there? They were given a lot of money. But why were the funds for our people stopped?” Mamata asked on Wednesday, referring to the rural development ministry’s response in Parliament to Trinamul MP Dev Adhikari’s question.
The minister informed Parliament that of the 10,50,401 fake MGNREGA job cards deleted in India since 2021, 3,64,401 were in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is in power.
Another 1,23,608 bogus cards were traced in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. The number of fake job cards deleted in Bengal was 5,651.
“(Funds frozen for) village roads, housing, midday meal, health mission.... What is this? This is not correct,” Mamata said.
“They have sent 160 central teams already. Let them... they are coming to give political food to BJP workers, nothing else,” she added, referring to yet another round of central teams visiting the state to inspect MGNREGA and Awas Yojana implementation.
“Those who are pickpockets shout the loudest, calling others pickpockets. They have picked the pocket of the nation.... They say things before elections, after that they say something else and bluff the people,” Mamata added.
Later in the day at Bagdogra airport when Mamata was asked to react to Singh’s objectionable comments on her related to the film festival, she said: “I cannot dance.”
“Sometimes I shake a leg with tribals to encourage them... that wasn’t the case here,” Mamata said. “Anil Kapoorji held my hand and urged me to join. I respect Bollywood. This was a gesture of respect, nothing else.”
Asked specifically about Singh’s contentious remarks, Mamata said: “Kiska? Arrey chhoro (Whose? Let it be)!”
Trinamul condemned Singh’s remarks. “This is the regressive attitude of the BJP. Multiple celebrities were present during the inauguration and they requested the chief minister to match steps with them. But the Union minister twisted the moment and made misogynistic remarks reminiscent of things the Prime Minister too has said in the past,” Bengal industries minister Shashi Panja said.
The party widely circulated a video of Singh’s remarks in an interview to ABP Ananda.
State finance minister Chandrima Bhattacharya underscored the chief minister’s leg injury that necessitated surgical intervention, despite which she joined the inauguration guests on the stage.
Trinamul’s Krishnagar MP Mahua Moitra said: “Union minister Giriraj Singh has made some shocking comments where he said.... May I just remind him and all his misogynist patriarchs in the BJP that it is not your place to tell us what is uchit (appropriate) and what is not.”