Trinamool MP Derek O'Brien on Monday night "fact-checked" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech in Bengal's Hooghly, rebutting statements accusing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her government of corruption, preventing development by stalling central welfare schemes and not allowing people to worship Goddess Durga.
Hours earlier the Prime Minister, making his second visit to Bengal this month, ahead of Assembly elections due in a few weeks, inaugurated several railway projects - including extending Kolkata Metro's North-South line - and said the people had decided to vote for "poriborton (change)".
To claims Bengal had not been allowed to develop, Mr O'Brien pointed out the average per person income had "more than doubled - from Rs 51,543 in 2010 to Rs 1.09 lakh in 2019".
Mr O'Brien also hit back at suggestions that because of the lack of industries Bengal could no longer offer its people employment. The Rajya Sabha MP pointed out "nearly 89 lakh small businesses operate in Bengal today compared to 34.6 lakh in 2012, employing 1.35 crore people".
PM Modi also accused the Trinamool of not allowing Bengal farmers to benefit from the centre's PM-Kisan scheme, and blocking Ayushman Bharat - the centre's flagship medical insurance scheme.
To both points Mr O'Brien said the state had already put in place schemes for farmers - who he said had seen incomes triple in 10 years - and medical insurance .
We did a #FactCheck of the speech delivered in Bengal by the Hon. Prime Minister today.— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) February 22, 2021
Here it is. pic.twitter.com/PykM92vdB0
"Bengal provides its farmers with annual financial assistance of Rs 6,000 per acre. PM-Kisan provides maximum financial assistance of Rs 1,214 per acre," he wrote on the first point.
Mr O'Brien also pointed out, as Ms Banerjee did last week, that the state had sent a list of 2.5 lakh farmers for inclusion in the centre's scheme but "no amount has been disbursed so far".
He said Swasthya Sathi had been rolled out two years before Ayushman Bharat, covered 100 per cent of the Bengal population and the costs were borne fully by the state government.
The Prime Minister had also said the Trinamool failed to provide drinking water to the people of Bengal; he said the centre had sanctioned Rs 1,700 crore but only Rs 609 crore had been spent.
Mr O'Brien said a scheme set up by Ms Banerjee was being implemented and would provide "piped water to two crore households at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore... borne entirely by the state".
He also countered claims the jute and potato industries in the state had been affected.
The fact-check also included a list of the state's assistance to puja committees, after the Prime Minister said people in Bengal had been stopped from worshipping Goddess Durga.
Earlier Mr O'Brien also hit out at the Prime Minister over the announcing of new rail routes.
"Today, the PM claimed to have started new rail routes in Bengal. Jhoot (Lie! Mamata Banerjee as Rail Minister allocated the budget, on 25 February 2011! See for yourself..." he tweeted, attaching a screenshot of what appeared to be a PIB release dated February 25, 2011.
Today, the PM claimed to have started new rail routes in Bengal. Jhoot! Mamata Banerjee as Rail Minister allocated the budget, on 25 February 2011!@PIB_India nails the lies of Mr Teleprompter!— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) February 22, 2021
See for yourself ????PIB official government release pic.twitter.com/55Vw8ofW3c
PM Modi's Bengal visit today was part of a multi-state blitzkrieg organised by the BJP ahead of Assembly elections in Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
Bengal has emerged as a high-profile target for the BJP, which has never previously ruled the state.
The run-up to elections has been marked by vitriolic mud-slinging fueled, in part, by the resignation of a large number of Trinamool MPs, MLAs and ministers, several of whom have joined the BJP.