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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 March 2024

In run-up to Amit Shah’s rally, Trinamul Congress and BJP engage in verbal duel

It appears a Gabbar Singh is headed this way. Mamatadi’s Jai-Veeru stand ready. These people have no ground beneath their feet, says Firhad Hakim

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 29.11.23, 05:37 AM
Amit Shah.

Amit Shah. File Photo.

The Trinamul Congress and the BJP engaged in a verbal duel through Tuesday in the run-up to Union home minister Amit Shah’s rally at Esplanade on Wednesday, which the Bengal Opposition party is seeing as the launch pad of its campaign in the state that sends 42 members to the Lok Sabha.

The rally, which is expected to impact traffic in the city, is likely to focus on alleged corruption and suspected irregularities under the Trinamul regime to counter chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s narrative that the BJP-led Union government was depriving Bengal’s poor of the benefits of central schemes.

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Minister and Calcutta mayor Firhad Hakim compared Shah to Gabbar Singh of Sholay and asserted Mamata’s “Jai and Veeru” — the principal protagonists from the film — were ready to ward off any challenge from the BJP.

“It appears a Gabbar Singh is headed this way. Mamatadi’s Jai-Veeru stand ready. These people have no ground beneath their feet. They cannot run their own organisation. They fall at the feet of the likes of Amit Shah and weep helplessly, hoping these visits would be some miraculous cure-all,” said Hakim, who along with others in Trinamul’s legislature party would observe the occasion as “Kala Divas (black day)” on Day 2 of the three-day anti-Centre protests at the foot of the B.R. Ambedkar statue on the Assembly premises.

Various outfits and frontal organisations of Trinamul have planned protests — such as the youth and student wings collecting over 50,000 letters addressed to Shah and underscoring the state of India’s economy, unemployment and the “step-motherly” treatment of Bengal.

“Daily visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah and so many others from their very top could not prevent the party from getting trounced by the people’s mandate in 2021,” Hakim said.

Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar sought to turn the tables on Trinamul by comparing Shah to the titular protagonist of Gabbar Is Back, a 2015 Bollywood film where the lead character is a crime-fighting vigilante. Majumdar hoped the No. 2 in the Narendra Modi government would jail the “corrupt” and the “thieves” of Bengal.

“I hope Hakim saheb remembers Gabbar Is Back, in which Gabbar captures and punishes the guilty. That way, it could be said that Gabbar is, indeed, coming here on Wednesday,” said the Balurghat MP.

The Hakim-Majumdar spat was just one instance of many such through the day, which kept places such as the Assembly on the edge.

Shah is likely to arrive in the afternoon, fly in a chopper to the Race Course and get to the venue in a motorcade. He is expected to address the gathering between 2.30pm and 3.15pm and leave later in the day.

“We are really looking forward to Amit Shahji’s address as he is expected to set the tone for the (Bengal chapter of the) Lok Sabha elections next year. This summer, he had set us the target of 35 seats from this state,” said Majumdar, whose party had won an unprecedented 18 of Bengal’s 42 seats in 2019 but has been on a path of relentless decline capped by its rout in the Assembly elections of 2021.

Majumdar and others in the state BJP accused Trinamul of threatening people against attending the rally and of forcing transporters not to ferry BJP workers.

Majumdar — who was at the venue on Tuesday to oversee preparations — has repeatedly made it clear that one of the main objectives of the rally would be to highlight public discontent against “corruption” under Mamata’s government. The state leadership hopes Shah would help cement corruption as the foremost poll plank.

“We are mainly doing this (Shah’s rally) right now to counter the Trinamul narrative that the Centre is depriving Bengal of its dues,” said a source.

The BJP plans to organise a dozen “mega” rallies in the state and 42 “semi-mega” rallies in each of the Lok Sabha seats. Four of the 12 “mega” rallies will be addressed by Modi, Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda.

Shah had last visited Calcutta on October 16, when he inaugurated the Durga Puja pandal at Santosh Mitra Square patronised by BJP councillor Sajal Ghosh. The BJP’s expectations about its prospects in Bengal in 2024 got a boost with what the party termed “an overwhelming response” to the pandal, which was a replica of Ayodhya’s Ram temple.

Adhikari suspended

Speaker Biman Banerjee on Wednesday suspended Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition, from the Assembly for the remaining period of the winter session. The action was taken after Adhikari had allegedly made objectionable remarks and gestures against the Speaker in the House.

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