- Trinamool Congress all set to hold an annual show of strength today
- Mamata Banerjee will address the party supporters in central Kolkata
- The BJP, however, has called the Martyrs' Day rally "a circus"
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee kicked off her mega Martyrs' Day rally in Kolkata today where she is expected to launch the poll campaign for the state elections, which are likely to be held in 2021.
She paid tributes to all the "martyrs" in 34 years of Left rule in the state, and urged people to fight for restoration of democracy in the country. The Trinamool chief also attacked the BJP and said: "Open your ears and listen. TMC is doing an annual meeting since 26 years. Some BJP leader has threatened to pull the TMC leaders off the bus. I tell BJP, if we react in kind...will you be able to withstand?" Ms Banerjee said, addressing a crowd of thousands of people.
On Saturday, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said the TMC leaders "must pay back "cut money" before heading to Kolkata for the rally." "We will not allow any of the TMC leaders to leave for the rally if they do not return the cut money they had taken from people. We will drag them out of the buses," Mr Ghosh said.
Since mid-June, the state has been witnessing widespread protests against the Trinamool Congress lawmakers for allegedly extorting "cut money" or commission to deliver government services that are free of cost. Slamming Mr Ghosh's statement as a "provocation to violence", the Trinamool Congress filed a first information report or FIR on Saturday against him for allegedly threatening the TMC leaders.
Ms Banerjee also accused the BJP of trying to "foil" the mega rally by operating only 30 per cent of the trains usually run on Sundays.
Last year, at the Martys' Day rally, Ms Banerjee had set ambitious targets for the Lok Sabha elections - setting her sight on Delhi and calling for a clean sweep of all the 42 parliamentary seats in the state. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.
In the national elections, the Trinamool Congress, which won 22 seats, lost 12 seats while the BJP gained 16 seats compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Ms Banerjee is now eyeing a turnaround. After the national elections, she roped in poll strategist Prashant Kishor to get the Trinamool Congress ready for the state elections.
(With inputs from PTI)