West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday launched her campaign for next year’s assembly elections with a public rally in the state’s Bankura, saying that she would win even if locked up in jail and accused the BJP of offering money to Trinamool Congress MLAs to switch sides.
Calling the BJP the “biggest curse of the nation”, she dared the party to arrest her. “The BJP is not a political party but garbage of lies. Whenever elections arrive, they bring up the issue of Narada (sting operation) and Saradha (scam) to intimidate TMC (Trinamool Congress) leaders,” she said.
“But let me tell them very clearly, I am not afraid of the BJP or its agencies. If they have the guts, they can arrest me and put me behind the bars. I will fight elections from jail and ensure the victory of the TMC,” Ms Banerjee said.
“They are calling TMC workers and offering money. They are saying, we will give you 2 crore, come over They are telling an MLA, I will give you 15 lakh now, 15 lakh later. Is this a political party? They are a disgrace,” she said.
Referring to the recently held Bihar elections, Ms Banerjee said even though Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Yadav was jailed, he ensured his party fared well.
“Even Lalu Prasad Yadav has been put behind bars but still he has ensured his party’s good performance. The victory of the BJP (in Bihar) is through manipulation and not through popular mandate,” she said.
This was Mamata Banerjee’s first election campaign ahead of next year’s assembly elections and her first rally since March. She chose Bankura to launch her campaign perhaps in response to Amit Shah’s visit to the western district earlier this month to launch the BJP’s campaign.
Ms Banerjee also revealed what could be a new poll strategy. Recalling the political violence during the Left regime, she accused the communists of joining hands with the BJP to avoid arrest in the Sharada scam. She said the Left of the past has become the new BJP.
Without naming anyone, she said some people who are under the illusion that the BJP might come to power in the state are acting as fence-sitters.
“Few people are under the illusion that they (BJP) will come to power, so some people are trying to take a chance. But I want to say this clearly, there is neither any chance nor ‘by-chance’ for the BJP to come to power. We will again return to power with a bigger mandate.”
Elections to the 294-member assembly in West Bengal, where the Trinamool has been in power since 2011, are due in April-May.