West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today hit out at the BJP for implementing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, in Gujarat. Taking a swipe at the ruling BJP over the Morbi bridge collapse in Gujarat, she claimed that those affected were not getting enough help as the government there was in election mode.
Speaking to reporters at the Kolkata Airport, before leaving for Chennai, Ms Banerjee said: "Stop this politics. Gujarat elections are coming, that is why they are doing it [implementing CAA]. We won't allow it. We are all citizens."
She added: "We are totally against this, and we opposed this. They are playing this game because of Gujarat elections, but I will stick to what I said earlier. Election is not that important. Politics is not that important. People's lives and their rights are more important."
BJP's Suvendu Adhikari, the Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly, had claimed yesterday that implementation of CAA had started in the country and West Bengal won't be left out."
His comment came a day after the centre announced granting of Indian citizenship to minorities, mostly from Pakistan, who migrated to India and are currently living in two districts of Gujarat, under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and not the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, (CAA).
Ms Banerjee's party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), has been one of the most vocal opponents of the CAA, reiterating its stand that it will never allow its implementation in Bengal. The BJP, however, has promised to implement CAA in Bengal. With Panchayat polls scheduled early next year, this is likely to emerge as a major issue.
BJP MPs such as Santanu Thakur from the Matua community have expressed concern over the party not pushing CAA in Bengal, especially after large sections of the Matua community voted for BJP on its promise of implementing CAA.
Speaking about her meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin in Chennai later today, the Bengal CM said regional parties will play a very important role in 2024 general elections.
"I cannot say everything right now without discussing with leaders of regional parties, because regional parties are very important for 2024 elections. I trust all regional parties, all of us, must work together," she said.
"This is not a political meeting, it is a courtesy meeting, but whenever political persons meet, there are political discussions, but I do not know that right now," she told reporters about her meeting with the Tamil Nadu CM.
She, however, refused to be drawn into a political slugfest with the BJP over the Gujarat bridge collapse, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used a similar incident in Kolkata in 2016 to target Ms Banerjee during his election campaign in Bengal that year. An old video clip of the Prime Minister attacking the Bengal government, after part of an under-construction flyover collapsed on Vivekananda Road, went viral on social media in the wake of last Sunday's tragedy in Morbi.
"Will not comment on this because people's lives are more important than politics. I am shocked that such an incident happened," Ms Banerjee said.
However, she did call for a probe under the supervision of the Supreme Court in the Gujarat bridge collapse. "I think there should be judicial commission under the Supreme Court. Why are ED and CBI not taking action against those responsible? They act only against common people. But those who are the real criminals, those who play with the lives of so many people, why are they spared?" she asked.
"When the bridge here [in Kolkata] collapsed, the number of those who had died was less [than the Morbi bridge collapse]. I was in Kharagpur. I returned and made all arrangements. But the people who have died there [in Morbi], are not getting help from the government because they are busy with elections," the Bengal Chief Minister said.