Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee marked the end of her 24-hour ban on campaigning this evening with a sharp attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Modi is a liar… PM is a liar,” the Chief Minister told her audience in Barasat, 20-odd km from state capital Kolkata. Then she amended, “Liar is an unparliamentary word. The Prime Minister is misleading the people.”
Challenging PM Modi’s contention that she has not done anything for the Matua community, Ms Banerjee was quoted as saying by news agency ANI: “I accept the challenge. If I have not done anything, I will resign from politics and if you are spewing lies without doing anything, then you will do sit-ups holding your ears.”
Ms Banerjee also questioned why the Prime Minister was campaigning on days of polling in the state. The Election Commission has scheduled a never-before eight phase polls in the state of which only four phases are over. The next one is due on Saturday.
“Why doesn’t the Election Commission ban PM’s visits on polling dates? I am ready to cancel my meetings on polling dates,” said the Chief Minister — who had spent the day in Kolkata holding a unique, solo protest.
That PM Modi desists from campaigning in the state on days when elections are being held, is a longstanding demand from her party.
In the second phase of polls, when elections were on at Nandigram, PM Modi said Ms Banerjee will be defeated at the hands of her BJP opponent Suvendu Adhikari, while addressing an election rally in the state.
The Trinamool has claimed that this, in effect, is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct — the dos and don’ts for political parties and their leaders during elections.
With news spreading fast on internet, such remarks can influence voters where polling is being held, the party has contended.
The Barasat rally was the first the Chief Minister was attending after her 24-hour ban on campaign by the Election Commission got over. She was barred over her remarks seeking votes from minorities – which the Commission said was “highly insinuating and provocative” and could affect law and order and “thereby, the election process”.
The 8-am-to-8-pm ban had come into effect on Monday evening.
Ms Banerjee had marked the day with a never-before protest. Around 11.30 am, she had appeared near the Gandhi statue at the heart of Kolkata. Sitting in a wheelchair there, she had painted for hours, unaccompanied by anyone save a few securitymen and media personnel who stood at a distance.
Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has repeatedly accused the Election Commission of partisanship, their criticism turning sharper after the ban. Senior party leader Derek O’Brien tweeted, “When you can’t beat us. You ban us”.