Set up united front to drive out BJP: Mamata's clarion call to Oppn parties
KOLKATA: Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson Mamata Banerjee gave a clarion call to the leaders of Opposition parties to set up a united front to drive out the BJP and restore democracy in India.
She was addressing a rally virtually to observe Martyr's Day on Wednesday. On July 21, 1993, a movement was launched in Kolkata, led by Mamata Banerjee demanding voters' identity cards to be made mandatory. The police opened fire killing 13 youths at the rally. In 1995, the Election Commission of India took a decision to make voter's identity cards mandatory.
Banerjee paid floral tribute to the 13 youths, who had died on that day. Besides, Banerjee, party's all-India general secretary Abhishek Banerjee and senior leaders like Subrata Bakshi and Mukul Roy were present on the dais of the virtual meeting.
"Though the general election is two-and-a-half years away, we cannot afford to waste time and the Opposition parties should give up their self interests and come under one umbrella. If we fail to do this, people will not forgive us," she said.
Latching on to the Pegasus snooping row, Banerjee accused the Modi government of trying to establish a "surveillance state". She also requested the Supreme Court to take cognizance of the snooping scandal that purportedly targeted politicians, activists, journalists and even judges using the Pegasus spyware. "BJP wants to convert a democratic country into a surveillance state rather than a welfare state," she said.
The TMC supremo also accused the Centre of spending the money collected through tax on fuel and other commodities for spying using "dangerous software" instead of funding welfare schemes.
"There are three pillars of democracy, namely, media, judiciary and political parties. The phones of several media persons have been tapped. The phones of Abhishek Banerjee and PK have been tapped and so when I talked to them my conservation got leaked also. The phones of the Judges have been tapped. A thorough inquiry needs to be conducted,"she said as she showed her phone in which the camera was plastered to foil snooping bids.
Banerjee's address was a pan-India event with people of different states, including Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Gujarat listening to her. In Tripura, the BJP-led government arrested 82 Trinamool supporters when they assembled to listen to her speech on a giant screen. In Gujarat, BJP supporters tore off her posters.
Trinamool Congress had put up a giant screen at the Constitution Club in New Delhi. TMC top leadership invited the Opposition parties, including Congress, SP, RJD, DMK, NCP, TRS to attend the programme at the Constitution Club and listen to Banerjee's speech.
Notably, Digvijay Singh and former finance minister P. Chidambaram from Congress, Tiruchi Siva of DMK, K. Keshav Rao from TRS, Priyanka Chaturvedi from Shiv Sena, Ram Gopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan from Samajwadi Party, Manoj Jha from RJD, Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule from NCP and Balwinder Singh Bhunder from SAD were among the attendees along with senior TMC parliamentarians of both the Houses.
Banerjee urged the leaders of the Opposition parties to fix a meeting any day between July 27 and 29 when she could meet them in New Delhi. She said if Covid situation showed improvement she would organise a meeting at the Brigade Parade ground where she would invite Sharad Pawar, P Chidambaram, Sonia Gandhi among others in December.
Coming down heavily on Narendra Modi, she said: "I have no personal grudge against him but it was really shameful when he praised the Uttar Pradesh government for its excellent Covid management. The UP government threw dead bodies in Ganga and we performed the last rites of some of the bodies that came floating to our state."
She maintained that the BJP-led Centre had miserably failed to combat the second wave of Covid as the leaders came to Bengal like the daily passengers to take part in election campaign.
Calling the BJP "a high loaded virus party," she said: "It's (BJP's) only moto is Goli, Guli and Gali." She said: "Khela Abar Hobe (Game will be played again) till BJP was thrown out of the country."
Banerjee thanked the booth-level workers and the people of Bengal particularly the women who had voted for her in an overwhelming number. She urged party workers to strengthen the organisation and work tirelessly to improve the image of the party. "Remember always, that the chair belongs to the people," she said.
She urged people to organise rallies for 30 minutes daily to protest against the rise in the prices of petroleum products and cooking gas. "Movement is required and stage your protest peacefully and without causing inconvenience to anyone," she said adding "the price hike has affected everyone in the country."
She said if the Opposition comes to power in 2024, ration would be given free to the people. "Not the Gujarat model, but the Bengal model would show the way," she said. She spoke about pro-people schemes taken up by her government, including Swasthya Sathi—under which Rs 5 lakh is given per family annually for treatment.
"Treatment in government hospital is free. The Swasthya Sathi card is issued in the name of the woman head of the family. We believe in women empowerment and several schemes like Kanyashree, Rupashree and Lakshmi Bhandar, under which Rs 1,000 will be given to the SC and ST women and Rs 500 to the women of general caste, have helped women enormously," she said.