Mamata Banerjee on Thursday held a unique form of protest against the relentless rise in fuel rates in India by riding from her home to the state secretariat and back on an e-scooter and demanded a rollback in the price of LPG cylinders to the level of the UPA II regime.
The Bengal chief minister threatened a much wider agitation from Friday, before urging other non-BJP forces across the country to do their bit on the fuel price rise.
“The price of everything, other than that of people’s lives, has at least doubled in this regime, across the country…. Every day, a leader will come (to Bengal), but you will not hear one word out of them on the price rise…. Only lies, as they please.... this price rise will not go on, it will not be tolerated,” she said at her residence in the evening, after her journey back from Nabanna.
“The LPG cylinder price must be brought back to Rs 400, where it was before they came to power. Or else, going forward, we will launch a much wider agitation…. Gas ka price vapas karo, nahi toh Narendra Modiji wapas jao (Roll back the price of LPG for domestic consumption, or else go back, Narendra Modi),” Mamata added.
Visibly pleased over her maiden e-scooter run, the chief minister said: “Now it becomes very easy for me. I will go anywhere, alone… I made so much progress in just a day.”
The Trinamul Congress chief warned the Prime Minister, asserting that he wouldn’t be able to handle the situation if the common man began to follow what India’s farmers had started.
“When the Modi government hadn’t come to power, a domestic LPG cylinder used to cost Rs 400. Today, it is Rs 825. A normal household needs a couple of cylinders a month. If two cylinders come for over Rs 1,600, what will the common man eat, buy, spend on children and their education, travel?” she asked.
The chief minister alleged a “big, mysterious game” behind the scenes, causing fuel prices in India to be disproportionately high even when crude oil prices had been low, internationally.
She then urged the non-BJP forces across the nation to unite on the issue. “Whichever section of society tries to protest against these anti-people policies, agencies are unleashed to hound them and they are branded as terrorists.”
“All other (non-BJP) forces in other states too, (Shiv Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra, DMK’s Stalin in Tamil Nadu, the CPM government in Kerala, the Congress government in Rajasthan, the Delhi government… everywhere. I urge people to come forward and protest,” she added.
The Trinamul chief accused the Modi government and the BJP of being opposed to most sections of the society.
“This government has sold off the nation. Modibabu and Amitbabu…. Anti-people, anti-women, anti-youth, anti-farmer, anti-worker…. Shorbonashi shorkar (a government that destroys everything),” she said.
“From history and geography to names of roads, places, everything, they will change. Names of stadiums too,” she added, apparently referring to the Motera stadium being renamed after Modi on Wednesday. “They have no respect for the nation’s real heroes and icons…. They will now change the name of this country too, perhaps.”
BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh reacted with scorn. “Neither can she control the scooter, apparently, nor the state. What is the point of taking all this needless risk, for the sake of a gimmick, at her age? All of this will amount to naught and the BJP will throw her out.”
Now, a rath with real horses, not diesel chariot, for you, Mr Modi?
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee trying to ride an electric scooter in Kolkata on Thursday. Telegraph picture
On her way to Nabanna in the morning, Mamata rode pillion on an electric scooter that Firhad Hakim, urban development minister, rode.
In the evening, Mamata herself occupied the rider’s seat briefly, braving lack of practice at riding a two-wheeler.
The chief minister rides pillion on the e-scooter on Thursday. Telegraph picture
At least twice, the scooter seemed off balance but accompanying security guards and policemen intervened just in time. After riding briefly on the Second Hooghly Bridge, Mamata gave the rider’s seat to Hakim. She was back on the rider’s seat from Rabindra Sadan till she reached her Harish Chatterjee Street residence in Kalighat.Along the way, curious onlookers on the roadside as well as highrises waved at the chief minister. Many clicked pictures and others cheered Mamata, who was “covered” by a team of around 25 policemen in plainclothes on two-wheelers.
Late in the evening, the Trinamul Congress launched a social media campaign with a picture of Mamata riding the scooter, The caption read: “Banglaar energy/ Mamata Banerjee.”