ASANSOL/TAPAN?RATUA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded people of 2018 Asansol riots during his rally last week to "provoke" voters amid the ongoing elections, and asserted that it was "unbecoming" of someone of his stature.
The TMC boss, who addressed three rallies during the day, said it was a "matter of shame" that the PM, with his "provocative" remarks, tried to influence people.
"You, members of different communities, are living in harmony. The other day, however, the prime minister visited Asansol and made many objectionable comments. He brought up the issue of riots and made provocative statements. This doesn't befit a PM, or a home minister," she said.
Modi, during his address, had referred to the Asansol riots in 2018 on the occasion of Ram Navami, and indirectly blamed the TMC dispensation for the violence.
Reminiscing that an imam of a local mosque, who lost his son in the riots, had said he didn't want any more bloodshed or death, the TMC supremo said, "The imam's words stand in contrast to what our PM says.
"Even as people of different communities live here in peace, the PM rakes up the issue of riots."
Claiming that she "has come to know that a photo of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was removed from the podium, minutes before the PM began his public meeting in Asansol", the CM said the media should be able to verify the same.
"Kavi Nazrul Islam is the national poet of Bangladesh but he was born in Bengal, in Churulia village. We have named a university and the Andal airport after him. He is our pride," she stated.
Earlier in the day, Banerjee, during her rally in Tapan area of Dakshin Dinajpur district, slammed the BJP-led Centre over differential pricing of COVID-19 vaccines, and said that the Union government, flush with money collected under PM Cares Fund, should provide vaccines for free.
Pointing out that Covishield is priced at Rs 150 for the Centre, Rs 400 for states and Rs 600 for private hospitals, the TMC supremo said, "Is it a joke? Why is that one vaccine being sold at different rates? Vaccines should not be commercialised.
"The Centre has a lot of money in PM Cares Fund but it wouldn't provide vaccines free of cost. Why couldn't they (central leaders) do the needful all these months?" Alleging that "this COVID-19 rage was Modi's contribution" to the country, she said, "So far, you (PM) have done nothing, you did not alert people or take necessary precautions when there was time.
Now, amid the rise in cases, you are asking people to buy doses and get vaccinated!" Citing Israel, where masks are no longer mandatory, as an example, Banerjee said, "What happened in India? Until recently, the Modi government did not allow states to undertake the vaccination drive on their own, and that has only led to a delay in the process."
Underscoring that the TMC government has administered 43 lakh doses, she said, "As of now, we are inoculating 40,000-50,000 people every day. The state has sought one crore more shots."
She gave assurance that her party, following re- election, will administer vaccines for free to all residents of the state over 18 years of age.
Banerjee also rued the fact that people are suffering due to shortage of medical oxygen, and said, "The PM held several meetings with the chief ministers. However, no master plan was prepared to ensure smooth supply of oxygen in the midst of this crisis."
Contending that the BJP's "game plan to capture Bengal" will never succeed, the TMC boss said, "You (saffron party leaders) can rig one or two booths with the help of central forces, but not all."
Claiming that she has information that the central forces opened fire "at Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas district", when polling for the sixth phase of elections was underway, Banerjee said, "Such instances of firing, and deliberate lathicharge on voters should immediately stop."
She further stated that the high court has rightly told the Election Commission to take appropriate measures to conduct polls amid the COVID-19 surge.
"The EC did not keep our request to club the last three phases of polls into one but instead curtailed campaign time from 10 am to 7 pm.
The poll panel has also changed SPs and DMs to aid the saffron party.
No matter what they do, the BJP will lose," the feisty leader said.
In Ratua area of Malda, she iterated that the Left, Congress and the ISF, which together have formed the Sanjukta Morcha, are "stooges" of the BJP.
"You may have earlier voted for the Congress or the Left. Now, they have formed the Sanjukta Morcha. All of them are stooges of the BJP. Please vote for the Trinamool Congress to prevent the BJP from seizing power."
Banerjee asked the central security forces to perform 'Rajdharma' and not intimidate voters.
"Today, I heard CAPF personnel beat up a block-level officer in Uttar Dinajpur district on the issue of setting up a fan (at a polling booth). I don't know if an FIR has been filed in the matter. Such instances are unfortunate," she added.