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NEW DELHI: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is under relentless all-round attack over the Sandeshkhali incident, has decided to fight back with a show of strength at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground on March 10.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself leading the Sandeshkhali charge against the Trinamool government, Mamata Banerjee has called for a mega rally to remind the Bohiragoto Jomidars (foreign landlords), implying the BJP, not to take Bengal’s patience and courtesy for its weakness.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday tore into the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government over alleged sexual assaults in the riverine island and said “The ‘storm of Sandeshkhali’ will sweep Bengal and ‘Nari Shakti’ (woman power) will play a pivotal role in decimating the ruling party in the Lok Sabha polls.”
“What happened with the women of Sandeshkhali makes our heads hang in shame,” he said.
The Prime Minister also met a group of women from Sandeshkhali, shortly after the rally in Barasat and assured them of justice and security.
As the BJP piles up pressure on Sandeshkhali, Mamata Banerjee has responded by mobilising her supporters.
“The #JonogorjonSabha at Brigade Ground this Sunday will be a historic event on the land that has always fought for its rights. Join us as we lead the people’s movement for Bengal’s secure future. Bengal will show the way,” the chief minister said in a post on ‘X’.
Banerjee also shared a video message in which she appealed to people of the state to gather at the Brigade Parade Ground in large numbers.
“We will be protesting against the way Bengal and its people are being deprived by stopping funds for road construction, construction of houses, 100-day work, health programs and several other schemes. They are trying to create a disturbed environment in Bengal which is opposed to the Bengali ethos,” she is heard saying in the video message.
Mamata’s counteroffensive comes amid BJP’s sustained and relentless campaign which has pitchforked the issue on national stage. Shahjahan Sheikh, the prime accused in the case, was arrested after being on the run for nearly 55 days. After the intervention of the Calcutta high court, Sheikh was today handed over to the CBI, which is investigating the case of attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali.
The BJP has accused Mamata Banerjee of shielding Sheikh. The Trinamool on the other hand has blamed the BJP leaders of trying to polarise the state ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
West Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP, which won 18 in 2019 elections, is going all out to increase its tally this time in the state. In the last assembly elections in the state, the BJP displaced the Left and the Congress as the main opposition party. The BJP won 77 assembly seats in 2021, which was a huge jump from its tally of 3 seats five years earlier. The Trinamool maintained its dominance in the state with 215 seats, but the Congress and the Left were decimated as they could not even open their accounts in the state assembly.
The Trinamool, on the other hand, wants to ensure that the BJP does not gain further ground in the state. In 2019, the Trinamool saw its Lok Sabha tally come down to 22 from 34 seats it had won in 2014.
Little wonder, Mamata is going all out to counter the BJP offensive over Sandeshkhali. In her video message released today, Mamata made a passionate appeal to all her followers to fight with her to save the Bengali culture. She also tried to fight back the charge of appeasement made by the BJP.
“Bengal is the cultural capital of India and it shows respect to all cultures. We say that though people may have individual faiths, the festivities surrounding them are for everyone to share. We do not discriminate among ourselves. We cannot accept how they are conspiring to divide Bengal and finish off Bengali culture,” the chief minister said in the video.
“I love all cultures, whether Hindu, Budhhism, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Muslims and Chirstians. We love everyone. We treat everyone as one amongst us. But if you are humiliating Bengal, it means you are humiliating those who are staying here,” she added.
Banerjee said that just like Bengal has shown India the way forward during the freedom struggle it will also do the same now.
“Bengal has shown the way to freedom struggle, to India’s renaissance. Bengal has contributed in taking the country forward. There is a conspiracy to shred up this Bengali consciousness to pieces. Let us unite against this conspiracy for one day,” Mamata said in the video.
Clearly, the stage is set for a very fierce electoral battle in West Bengal. In the next few months, both the BJP and the Trinamool, will go all out to reach out and galvanize their supporters. What’s more, with the opposition INDIA bloc failing to forge an alliance in the state, West Bengal could see an interesting three-way contest in Lok Sabha elections.


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