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Modi's scooter barb against CM sidesteps fuel price hike

Prime Minister uses 'Nandigram' to take a dig at Mamata Banerjee

Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 08.03.21, 12:37 AM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Brigade Parade Grounds in Calcutta on Sunday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Brigade Parade Grounds in Calcutta on Sunday. Pradip Sanyal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday appeared to mock chief minister Mamata Banerjee by bringing up a near-accident that she had while riding an e-scooter in Calcutta to protest the fuel and LPG price hikes on February 25.

Speaking at the Brigade Parade Grounds rally on Sunday afternoon, Modi conveniently kept the rhetoric on a personal level and brushed aside actual facts of the price hike that had fuelled Mamata’s protest.


“Everyone started to pray for your wellness when you handled a scooty a few days ago and prayed you would not suffer injuries....It was good that you did not fall down. Otherwise, you would make an enemy of the state which produced the scooter. If the scooter-producing state was in south (India), you would make the south the enemy and if it was north, you would make the north the enemy,” said Modi.

On February 25, the chief minister had staged a protest clubbed with a demand for price rollback of LPG cylinders to UPA-II era level by deciding to ride pillion on an e-scooter from Bhowanipore home to state secretariat Nabanna with urban development minister Firhad Hakim at the wheel. On her way back home, security personnel helped her ride the scooter, during which photographers captured a moment where she appeared to lose her balance.

“It was good you did not fall. What can we do if your scooter takes a turn towards Nandigram instead of Bhowanipore? We always want wellness for everyone; we don’t want someone to be injured. But when the scooter decides to fall down in Nandigram, then what can we do?” added the Prime Minister to loud chants from his supporters.

Mamata is contesting from Nandigram against her own former minister and aide Suvendu Adhikari who defected to the BJP last December.

The crowd at the Brigade Parade Grounds on Sunday.

The crowd at the Brigade Parade Grounds on Sunday. Gautam Bose

On Sunday, the price of petrol in Calcutta was Rs 91.35 a litre and diesel Rs 84.35 a litre while the cost of an LPG cylinder touched Rs 845. Amid the hike, Mamata Banerjee government reduced petrol and diesel prices by Re 1 per litre.

Mamata and her party launched a statewide attack on the Modi government over LPG and fuel hike starting February. As a part of her protest on Sunday, she led a rally with thousands of women in Siliguri.

Trinamul leaders on Sunday also criticised Modi for mocking Mamata’s protest without uttering a single word in his long speech about the issue. “It is the style of Modi to mock people but to not utter a single word on the burning issues of the day,” said Saugata Roy, a Trinamul vice-president and its Dum Dum MP. “He took credit for providing free gas cylinders under the Ujjwala Yojana, but did not mention how it is impossible for common people to buy a cylinder by spending Rs 845,” he said, and pointed out how Modi has been silent on the farmers’ movement against the farm laws too.

“Who will mock Modi when he mispronounces Bengali names? He did not mention rejoinders against him that he is attempting to grow a beard like Rabindranath Tagore. There are many things to mock (him for) but he is mocking other people,” scoffed Roy.

Sources said Mamata’s protest by riding an e-scooter, and later grabbing the handles of the vehicle in an attempt to pilot it struck a positive note amid her electorate. Despite Opposition leaders trying to criticise her way of protest, thousands of people in Calcutta stood by to see the chief minister riding a scooter.

Visibly pleased over her maiden e-scooter run, Mamata had said: “Now it becomes very easy for me. I will go anywhere, alone…I made so much progress in just a day.”

A Trinamul leader said “Didi’s scooter ride” and the core issue of price hike that she had wanted to raise through it had grabbed Bengal’s attention. “That’s why Modi desperately tried to attack her amid fear of losing votes in this regard.”

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