Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has delivered a stinging comeback to BJP chief Amit Shah who hurled a bundle of accusations at the Bengal chief minister. Mr Shah, speaking at a rally in the heart of Kolkata, had accused Ms Banerjee of leading a corrupt system in the state that siphons the crores of rupees sent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for people. "Did the nephew and syndicates share the loot?" Mr Shah had said.
"Rubbish," Derek O'Brien shot back, serving a 24-hour ultimatum to Mr Shah, widely considered the BJP's master strategist, to apologise or face legal action. Mr O' Brien said the BJP president had crossed the limits of decency, insulted Bengal with his blatant lies and could not get away by leveling allegations against Ms Banerjee.
"You may have done this kind of politics in Gujarat but it can't happen here. And who are you to raise questions about corruption," the senior Trinamool Congress leader said. It is a point that Mr O'Brien made more than once, also angered by the BJP chief's speech that, the Trinamool says, was an attempt to polarise the electorate along religious lines.
Ms Banerjee had been his lone target through Mr Shah's 26-minute speech in which he took aim and opened rapid fire. The Trinamool Congress has described the public meeting a "flop show".
"There are banners that the BJP is ant-Bengal.... We are not... we are definitely anti-Mamata Banerjee," Mr Shah said in his now-controversial speech before he went on to hammer her on illegal immigrants, corruption and minority appeasement.
He also claimed that local news channels had been stopped from telecasting his speech.
Communal politics won't cut ice in Bengal, Mr O'Brien responded. Neither will allegations of corruption in Bengal.
"Ms Banerjee's credibility is very high... No one will listen," he said.
Mr Shah had claimed that ever since Trinamool Congress government had come to power in Bengal seven years ago, "there has been a series of corruption (cases) starting from the Narada scandal, Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi scams ... syndicates and the unlawful activities of cattle mafias and coal mafias".
According to news agency IANS, Mr Shah also made a veiled attack on Ms Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee - the Trinamool lawmaker is widely regarded as her prospective successor.
"During the 14th Finance Commission, the Narendra Modi government allotted Rs 3,59,000 crore to Bengal as compared to Rs 1.32,000 crore given by the UPA government during the previous Finance Commission. Where did all the money go? Did it disappear in the pockets of syndicates and the nephew?" Mr Shah asked.