Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday accused the BJP of following a “double standard”, referring to the controversy the party has kicked up over her meeting with Puja committees ahead of the September 30 by-election in Bhowanipore that she will be contesting.
Meetings with Puja committees have been an annual feature for Mamata since she became chief minister in 2011.
“They (the BJP) say, ‘She doesn’t allow Durga Puja’. And if I meet (Puja committees), they go and lodge a complaint asking why they (Puja committees) are being helped,” she told a Trinamul workers’ meeting with which she launched her by-election campaign.
“They (the BJP) have complained against me and against you all. But these people also say I don’t allow Lakshmi Puja, I don’t allow Saraswati Puja, I don’t allow Durga Puja. What double standard and hypocrisy! Sometimes I even feel the urge to beat the (Puja) drum — then they’ll know.”
Mamata had on Monday attended a Puja coordination meeting with several clubs that organise Durga Puja. There, chief secretary Harikrishna Dwivedi announced that each of the 36,000 Puja committees in Bengal would receive a cash donation of Rs 50,000 from the government.
Similar incentives had been given in previous years too, with the Puja committees receiving Rs 25,000 in 2019 and Rs 50,000 in 2020. But the BJP on Tuesday lodged a complaint with the state chief electoral officer saying Mamata had violated the model code of conduct by offering the donation after the by-election had been announced.
Mamata said the announcement of the donation hadn’t violated election norms since it was the chief secretary who had made it.
“The BJP people are always waiting for an opportunity to lodge complaints against me. They have complained asking why I went to the Puja meeting yesterday. They don’t know me,” she said.
Mamata added: “Why would I announce new projects? Am I a fool? These are ongoing projects. The CS (chief secretary) announced it and he can speak as a government officer. There has to be coordination (between all Puja stakeholders and the government), so I went to a coordination meeting. How will the Puja committees prepare if they are not informed beforehand?”
During a polarising campaign for the April-May Bengal Assembly polls, leader after BJP leader — including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah — had accused Mamata of resisting the celebration of Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja.
Trinamul sources said Mamata’s charge of “double standard” would have stumped the BJP, already in disarray after the Assembly poll debacle.
Mamata’s speech was live-streamed across Trinamul’s social media platforms. Although she mostly spoke in Bengali, her occasional Hindi sentences made it clear she was looking at an audience beyond Bengal and that her focus was not just on the Bhowanipore by-election.
“When this (by-election) is over, we will have to win the by-elections that follow, we’ll have to win the civic polls, then the 2024 polls,” Mamata said.
She went on to refer to national issues such as the rise in fuel prices, the farmers’ protest and the vaccine shortage.
The chief minister also accused the central agencies of harassing her party colleagues — including her nephew and Trinamul all-India general secretary Abhishek Banerjee — at the behest of the BJP leadership.
She referred to the violence against Trinamul leaders and workers in Tripura, and described the BJP as worse than “Duryodhan and Duhshasan”.