West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday decided not to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister citing 'untrue" claims by the BJP that 54 of their workers were murdered in Bengal.
This comes after Banerjee on Tuesday confirmed her presence at the ceremony to be held on May 30.
"Congratulations, new Prime Minister, Narendra Modiji. It was my plan to accept the "constitutional invitation" and attend the oath-taking ceremony. However, I am seeing media reports that the BJP is claiming 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal in the last one year. This is completely untrue. There have been no political murders in Bengal. These deaths may have occurred due to personal enmity, family quarrels and other disputes, nothing related to politics. There is no such record with us," Banerjee said in a tweet explaining her decision.
"So I am sorry, Narendra Modi ji, this has compelled me not to attend the ceremony. The ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to score political points. Please excuse me," she wrote on Twitter.
In what is perceived as a message to the Trinamool supremo, the Prime Minister has specially invited families of over 50 BJP workers who were killed in Bengal for his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday.
The families will be among 7,000 BJP invitees, who will be staying in Delhi under party care, reported NDTV.
The party has booked their train tickets and informed them personally, BJP leader Mukul Roy informed the media.
"It is a gesture of showing respect to our martyrs who died while working for the party during the violence unleashed by Trinamool Congress (TMC) goons," he said.
According to BJP sources, it is a "message" for Mamata Banerjee and the TMC that West Bengal is on the priority list of the saffron party.
A senior TMC leader alleged that the kin of BJP workers have been invited to the ceremony to "humiliate" the state administration.
"Had they been so serious about showing respect to the family of martyrs, they should have also called the family members of TMC workers who were killed in the violence."
"By not doing so, the message they want to give is quite obvious," the TMC leader said.
The decision was taken in a five-hour meeting between Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah at the former's home in Delhi Tuesday night.
As per saffron party leaders, the cadres were killed during Panchayat or local body polls last year and the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections 2019.
"The gesture is meant to convey to the party's cadre in Bengal that the central leadership cares for them and stands by them against violence by Trinamool Congress workers," said the party sources.
Amit Shah also paid tribute to the workers even in his address at BJP's victory meeting on May 23, after the Lok Sabha results.
The Parliamentary elections in Bengal got marred by the incidents of violence throughout the seven phases. Out of 42 seats in Bengal, While BJP zoomed to 18 seats from its 2014 tally of two, the ruling Trinamool dropped sharply from 34 to 22. The saffron party also improved its vote share from 17 per cent to 40.25 per cent this time around, along with gaining politically in more than 120 assembly constituencies there.
On Tuesday, problems aggravated further for Mamata as Subhrangshu Roy, son of Trinamool founder and senior BJP leader Mukul Roy joined the saffron party ranks in Delhi, along with fellow party MLA Tusharkanti Bhattacharjee and CPM's Bengal legislator Devendra Roy.
Senior party leaders, including West Bengal party in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya and Roy, were present at the party headquarters on the occasion.
"Like the elections were held in seven phases in West Bengal, joinings in BJP will also happen in seven phases. Today was just the first phase," Vijayvargiya asserted.
Subhrangshu was earlier suspended from Trinamool for six years on May 25 for 'anti-party' activities. The party likened the turncoats to 'rats abandoning a ship sensing danger' and said people will give them a befitting reply.
"We will expel them from the party. Subhrangshu is already under suspension. We are not bothered about such opportunists. People will give them a befitting reply. If some of the leaders join the BJP just because it has won a few seats, they are nothing, but rats who abandon a ship sensing danger. It is good that they have left our party," senior TMC leader and minister Firhad Hakim said.
(With agency inputs)