Kolkata: Taking a jibe at the oft-repeated claim by BJP that the Gujarat model of development will be implemented in West Bengal should the party win the next state polls, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday said that the people will have to prevent this from happening. The national anthem, the national song and the 'Jai Hind' slogan were all given to the world from West Bengal, she said at an event here.
"Bengal thrives on excellence and merit. We cannot allow to turn it into Gujarat", the TMC supremo, who is a vocal critic of BJP, said. "The soil of Bengal is the source of life. We have to protect this soil. We have to take pride in this. There is no one who can come from outside and say this place will be turned into Gujarat," the TMC supremo said iterating her 'outsider' charge against the saffron party.
"Our message is that we are for all… Humanity is for all whether he is a Sikh, Jain, Muslim or a Christian. We don't allow any division among them", she said. Referring to the new strain of COVID-19, she said it is very strong and every one will have to be very cautious and take extreme care of their health.
Like dengue changes character, the same thing has happened in the case of COVID-19. "A flight from the UK which reached the Kolkata airport carried two passengers who have tested positive. All flights to the UK have been cancelled," Banerjee said. "Now winter has come and cold and fever are automatic companions. So there is a need to take extra care like wearing masks, sanitizing phones and clothes," she said adding if people take extra care then COVID-19 can be defeated.
"Our government has decided to award the coronavirus warriors either with money or jobs," the chief minister said. Banerjee said during the year the artistes have not been able to earn money due to the pandemic. The government will hold 630 fairs from December to January and different departments will participate in them.
Folk and other artistes will be allowed to perform in these fairs, which will help them overcome the fear of COVID- 19. But the regulation of physical distancing will have to be maintained, she added.
'No Place for Traitors'
Meanwhile, senior Trinamool Congress leaders lashed out at party turncoat Suvendu Adhikari, who recently joined the BJP, saying there is no place for "traitors" in the politics of West Bengal.
Adhikari's joining of hands with "forces that spread hate and divide people" will not be accepted by the people of his home district Purba Medinipur, they said.
Veteran TMC MP Sougata Roy, addressing a rally at Contai, known to be the Adhikari family's bastion, said, "Contai is not the zamindari of any family. Taking out two urns of water doesn't impact an ocean. The exit of anyone from our party will not cause any dent in our support base in the district."
Roy said Adhikari is not a heavyweight in the district as is being projected and he had lost the first two by-elections to the Lok Sabha and assembly after joining the TMC. "Suvendu is not a heavyweight. After losing the first two by-elections, he was fielded by Mamata Banerjee in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and he won.
"He also won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the 2016 assembly polls, all with the party's backing. He had held three ministerial portfolios. Now, what all is he saying?" the Dumdum MP said.
Accusing Adhikari of resorting to falsehood and doublespeak now, Roy said, "After having spoken with Abhishek Banerjee (TMC youth wing chief and Mamata Banerjee's nephew) on December 1 in the presence of me and some other leaders, Suvendu did a volte-face and now, he is giving a call to unseat Abhishek from power." Branding Adhikari a "traitor", Roy accused him of bringing down the level of West Bengal politics to a "new low".
"The chief minister has constructed metalled roads connecting different parts of the district and the credit does not go to any Mir Jafar or agents of the BJP," he said. Roy said BJP leaders like Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief JP Nadda and national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya are "frequently hopping" from outside the state with a "daydream" to secure over 200 seats in the assembly elections.
Elections to the 294-member assembly are likely to be held in April-May next year. "The BJP will not cross the three-digit mark," he said.
Roy said the TMC supremo is being targeted because of her stringent criticism of the "anti-people" policies of the Centre. "Suvendu has joined hands with the party that has brought the anti-farmer new farm laws," he said.
Urban Development Minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said he is feeling ashamed to be called a former colleague of Adhikari. "I am ashamed of your (Adhikari's) conduct. You are bending before Amit Shah to touch his feet. What prompted you to do this? For the fear of going to jail?" Hakim said.
Rubbishing Adhikari's charge that the TMC is driven by dynastic politics, Hakim said, "I am the first person from my family to join politics. I have climbed stairs to reach this far whereas Suvendu entered politics because of his father Sisir Adhikari (presently Kanthi MP)," he said.
Earlier, Hakim and Roy had led a huge TMC rally in the district, passing by Adhikari's residence to reach the venue.
Adhikari's family members, who are still with the TMC, were, however, conspicuous by their absence from the rally..