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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 April 2024

TMC Brigade bugle to counter Sandeshkhali: Abhishek launches campaign with March rally and dare

The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled rallies in Bengal on March 1, 2 and 8 (rescheduled from March 6), which are expected to kick off the BJP’s Bengal campaign

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 26.02.24, 05:16 AM
Trinamul leader Ajit Maiti takes shelter insidea house after he was allegedly chased by villagers in Sandeshkhali on Sunday.

Trinamul leader Ajit Maiti takes shelter insidea house after he was allegedly chased by villagers in Sandeshkhali on Sunday. PTI picture.

Trinamul plans to launch its general election campaign with a “Jonogorjon (people’s roar) Rally” at the Brigade Parade Grounds on March 10, party national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said on Sunday, challenging the BJP to hold a matching event if it could.

The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled rallies in Bengal on March 1, 2 and 8 (rescheduled from March 6), which are expected to kick off the BJP’s Bengal campaign.

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Abhishek indicated a Trinamul strategy to weather the political storm over Sandeshkhali — which the BJP believes will prove to be Mamata Banerjee’s Waterloo — and bring popular attention back to the “real” issues.

“Some people sitting in Delhi are trying to fan a fire in Bengal and create a situation of unrest so that Sandeshkhali remains in the news. How many times have you shown the farmers’ protests on television?” he said.

“We have called for this event on March 10 — which will be historic — because there is this ongoing conspiracy to deprive Bengal of its rightful dues for two years now,” the Trinamul Number Two said at Maheshtala in the evening.

“Funds due to Bengal from the Centre under the MGNREGA, the Awas Yojana, the Gram Sadak Yojana, midday meals and so many other schemes have been stopped.”

Abhishek added that his aunt, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had held multiple meetings with Modi to resolve the issue.

The March 10 event is exactly the sort of initiative that Trinamul leaders, workers and supporters had been anxious to see, having watched a succession struggle, reflected in an old-versus-new debate, stall the launch of the party’s poll campaign.

“They (the BJP) were missing in action from Bengal for two-and-a-half years, and are now back with their misleading activities as elections are about to be announced. This is why we call them bohiragawto (outsiders), Bangla-birodhi (anti-Bengal), and jomidar (feudal lords),” Abhishek said.

“The March 10 public meeting is to protest against the anti-Bengal move of blocking our dues. The bohiragawto and the Bangla-birodhi must see a trailer of Banglar gorjon (Bengal’s roar)…. They will see the full film in the elections.”

The wording suggests Trinamul will not just use the alleged central deprivation as a core poll plank but also regenerate the successful leitmotif of its 2021 Assembly election campaign — of a daughter of the soil standing up to marauding legions of anti-Bengal outsiders.

Abhishek also spoke of a Swanirbhor Bangla (self-reliant Bengal) under Trinamul’s stewardship — an obvious counter to Modi’s argument of “double-engine governments” (BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state) being key to development and to the Prime Minister’s slogan of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

“In the coming years, we will turn this into a state that does not need any help from Delhi. Instead, leaders from Delhi will come here to seek our help,” he said. “Immediately after 18 (BJP) MPs were elected in 2019, Bengal’s funds were stopped, because these elected BJP leaders wrote to the Centre calling for an economic blockade of Bengal.”

The Diamond Harbour MP dared the saffron camp to conduct a matching counter-event to the Brigade rally. “To those who only make tall claims, I say that if you have the organisational hold or on-the-ground strength, try doing a matching counter-event at the same venue on March 11 or 12,” he said.

Modi will address rallies in Arambagh, Krishnanagar and Barasat on March 1, 2 and 8, respectively. The BJP fancies its chances this time in all these three Lok Sabha seats, where it had lost in 2019.

At the Barasat rally on March 8 — International Women’s Day — Modi is likely to speak to the Sandeshkhali women who have alleged torture by local Trinamul leaders.

“Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister and is free to visit any place he wants. But after the 2021 Assembly elections, had he held any meetings for the benefit of the people in Arambagh, Barasat or Krishnanagar?” Abhishek asked. “Why do their activities begin only when elections are near? He is coming only because he wants power. Does this mean he attaches no value to the lives of our people?”

Trinamul Congress national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee at Maheshtala in South 24-Parganas on Sunday afternoon

Trinamul Congress national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee at Maheshtala in South 24-Parganas on Sunday afternoon Sourced by The Telegraph

Abhishek seemed to suggest that other parties were welcome to join the March 10 event.

“Since we are fighting this anti-Bengal mindset and the deprivation of Bengal by the BJP-led Centre, anyone who feels this way can attend our programme on March 10…. Every entity or person can join the fight, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, religion… or politics,” the MP said.

Abhishek attacked the BJP on issues such as the deactivation of some Bengal residents’ Aadhaar cards — alleged to be a precursor to the implementation of the contentious citizenship matrix — and some BJP leaders’ alleged “Khalistani” remark against a Sikh IPS officer.

On Sandeshkhali, Abhishek suggested that handling the controversy over Sheikh Shahjahan is hardly a challenge for a party that has acted against the likes of (arrested Trinamul heavyweights) Partha Chatterjee and Jyoti Priya Mallick.

Asked about a possible visit to Sandeshkhali, he said: “We will go when the time is right. We don’t want to go and create a political provocation in the area, unlike the BJP and the CPM.” Abhishek added: “Why can’t BJP leaders go to Sandeshkhali on the same day? Only because Narendra Modi has given the order to ensure the Sandeshkhali issue is kept alive till March 8, as the Prime Minister is visiting Bengal.

“After the Brigade event, I will go to Sandeshkhali. I feel it is not prudent to hold a meeting there right now, and will wait for the situation to get better.”

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