After sitting on a dharna at Kolkata’s iconic Gandhi Murti for over three and a half hours against the Election Commission’s 24-hour ban on her campaigning, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held two back-to-back rallies in Kolkata on Tuesday night in which she hit out at the BJP, saying that she was a “street fighter” and would not be cowed down by the “intimidation tactics of the BJP”.
Addressing a rally in Barasat, the Trinamool Congress chief said: “BJP can campaign and I am not allowed to campaign. I will not say anything. The people of Bengal will take a call on it. They are watching everything.”
“The BJP wants to stop me from campaigning as they have sensed defeat,” she said at the rally that began sharp at 8.01 pm just after the Election Commission’s 24-hour ban on her ended.
At her next rally in Bidhannagar, she challenged Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah for a debate on what her government has done for the Matua community.
“I challenge Amit Shah to a public debate on what I have done for the Matuas. If I fail to prove that I have done something for the community, I will quit politics. But if you fail to prove your point, you will have to do sit-ups,” she said.
“The BJP is trying using every power. All its leaders — big and small — are coming to West Bengal. They can use every power, but we will not let them make Bengal into Gujarat… This election is an election to save Bengal’s prestige. This election is an election to ensure Bengal doesn’t turn into Gujarat. This election will ensure Bengal doesn’t go into the hands of the goondas. This is an election to throw the BJP out of Bengal. This is an election to save this country,” she said.
The chief minister also announced that she will visit Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar on Wednesday to meet the families of four persons killed in firing by Central forces during the fourth phase of polling on April 10.
She will also meet the family of the youth who was killed on that day.
“I will go to Sitalkuchi tomorrow and will meet the families of the victims who died not only from bullets of Central forces but also who was killed by anti-socials. I condemn and I am saddened by all deaths,” she said.
After the death of five persons in Sitalkuchi last Saturday, the Election Commission had barred the entry of politicians to the area for the next 72 hours. Banerjee had wanted to visit the area on Sunday, but due to the poll panel’s decision, she had to postpone it.
Earlier in the day, she sat on a dharna in the heart of the city to protest against the Election Commission’s decision to bar her from campaigning for 24 hours.
Banerjee, who is still confined to a wheelchair owing to the injuries she sustained in Nandigram last month, arrived at Mayo Road here around 11.40 am and began her sit-in next to a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with the security personnel having cordoned off the area.
No TMC leaders or supporters were spotted nearby.
“No party member was allowed anywhere near the site of the dharna. She sat there alone,” PTI quoted a senior TMC leader as saying.
The CM, who had a black scarf wrapped around her neck as a mark of protest, was seen painting — one of her hobbies — during the 3.5-hour sit-in. She showed the paintings to the audience before heading back home without saying anything.
On Monday, the Election Commission imposed a 24-hour campaigning ban on Banerjee for her “highly insinuating” and “provocative remarks” which the poll body said had “serious potential” to lead to a law and order breakdown in the state.
Calling the Election Commission’s decision“undemocratic and unconstitutional”, the TMC chief had announced to sit on dharna on Tuesday.
—With PTI Inputs