Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has insulted West Bengal’s culture by displaying her foot while wearing saree, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Dilip Ghosh has told News18 in an exclusive interview, justifying his controversial comments targeted at the CM at a public rally in Purulia.
“In West Bengal, our mothers and sisters wear saree. Saree is a symbol of decency. But it is not proper that someone deliberately shows her foot — again and again in public meetings — while wearing a saree. Even women are not liking this. I have questioned this…it does not seem proper in Bengal’s culture. The CM speaks a lot about Bengali culture…We do not expect such behaviour from the CM,” Ghosh told News18 in Kharagpur.
Ghosh’s remarks in Purulia earlier this week that Banerjee should wear “bermudas (shorts)”, and not saree, if she wanted to display her foot triggered an uproar. Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) has criticised the comments, saying they are insensitive and an insult to women. The party may also complain to the Election Commission.
The controversy came on the backdrop of Banerjee showing in her election rallies the injuries she said she suffered on her left foot in Nandigram on March 10 . While Banerjee alleged that the incident was the outcome of a “deliberate attack”, the BJP said it was an accident. It added that the CM was hurt after her car door closed on her, but she was using the episode to gain sympathy. Banerjee was discharged from a Kolkata hospital two days after the incident. She has since hit the campaign trail — in a wheelchair and with a cast on her left leg.
“My comment is not an insult of women. In fact, she has insulted our culture and I have protested against it. There is no controversy; no clarification needed. I have said it in a public meeting,” Ghosh told News18.
He also said huge crowds gathering at rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP leaders were an indication of the victory awaiting the party in the eight-phase assembly elections beginning March 27.
“This is just like it was in the Lok Sabha polls, when we got big crowds and 18 seats (of the 42 seats in the state). This is an indicator. This time the entire TMC will be wiped out and we will get over 200 seats (in the 294-member assembly),” Ghosh said. He added that there was no love for the CM among the people and that women voters, considered a strong support base for Banerjee, were in fact with the BJP.
“There is no sympathy for the CM…she has insulted women. She is trying to get sympathy, but she has to first give an account of last 10 years (of the TMC rule). But she has dodged that, and instead doing a drama,” Ghosh said, referring to the Nadigram incident. “Women voters have been tortured and insulted…they are sick of Banerjee. Our manifesto promises big things for women…they believe they will get under BJP rule what they did not get for 73 years. There is a big rush of women in our rallies,” he told News18.
He also said the BJP will do well in urban seats of Bengal. “We got leads in all urban municipalities in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. We are already there in rural Bengal, and we have covered ground wherever we were weak. In entire Bengal, the BJP will win,” Ghosh told News18.
Kharagpur: Prestige fight for Ghosh
The Kharagpur Sadar seat, which goes to polls on April 1, is a prestige issue for Ghosh, as he won the seat in 2016. He relinquished it after being elected the MP from Medinipur in 2019. The TMC won the assembly seat for the first time in the subsequent bypoll, in which businessman Pradip Sarkar threw a surprise and registered a victory by 20,000 votes. He is now running a strong campaign there.
While Ghosh has not been fielded by the BJP in the upcoming assembly polls (unlike four other MPs), Tollywood actor Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay is contesting the seat on a BJP ticket. Ghosh is throwing his weight behind the actor, eager to wrest this seat back from the TMC.
Sarkar, on the other hand, is trying to project that he is a local face, and also playing the development card. The city is plastered with his posters calling him a “jana sewak (servant of public)” and “sachha hai, achha hai (he is honest and good)”. The Congress, which held this seat from 1982 to 2011, seems reduced to a non-entity, though posters of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra can be spotted here and there.
The BJP is banking on Ghosh’s presence to win the seat. But the fight is tough, as the TMC is leaving no stone unturned to retain Kharagpur, which it won in by-elections.