KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, without taking any name, said on Wednesday that "a few people are bringing in goons" from other states to disturb peace, ahead of the 2021 assembly elections.
Her remark drew sharp reaction from the BJP, which said, "Indians from other parts of the country are not welcomed by the TMC government, but Bangladeshi intruders are greeted with open arms".
Addressing an inauguration programme of Jagadhatri Puja at Posta Bazaar here, largely dominated by Hindi-speaking population, Banerjee urged everyone to resist "goons and outsiders" who are trying to create unrest in the state.
"If some goons from outside come to our state and terrorise you, all of you should unite and resist them. I promise we will stand by you. We believe in peace. But few people come to the state only during the elections to terrorise others. We won't allow them to have a free run here," she said.
Calling these outsiders "divisive forces", Banerjee said they need to be defeated.
Banerjee had in the past referred to the BJP as a "party of outsiders" on several occasions.
Reacting to the statement, BJP national general secretary and the party's Bengal minder, Kailash Vijayvargiya, said Banerjee's remarks reflect TMC's frustration over the saffron party's growth in the state.
"Such comments reflect the anger and frustration of the TMC and its leadership. It is ludicrous that people from other parts of the country are not welcome in the state, but Bangladeshi intruders are welcomed with open arms as they form the vote bank of the TMC," he said.
Narratives themed around 'Bengali pride' and 'natives versus outsiders' are slowly gaining momentum, with various outfits raising the pitch for reservation of domicile Bengalis in jobs and education in the state, where, until a few years ago, cultural sub-nationalism was an alien concept.
After having a limited presence in politically polarised Bengal for decades, the BJP has emerged as the main rival of the ruling TMC by winning 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2019 general election.
With the BJP spreading its wings in the state over the last few years, party leaders have exuded confidence that it will be able to end Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's 10-year rule in 2021 assembly elections, likely to be held in April- May next year.