- PM accused Mamata Banerjee of blocking a central benefit scheme
- Comments come amid escalating war between BJP, TMC ahead of polls
- Modi Government had "done nothing" to help Bengal, Ms Banerjee said
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal of blocking a central benefit scheme for farmers because of its political agenda and denying funds to 70 lakh farmers in the state under the flagship PM-KISAN scheme.
Mamata Banerjee's ideology had "destroyed" Bengal, PM Modi said, accusing the Chief Minister of "doing politics" by blocking the scheme to provide farmers Rs 6,000 every year under ''Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi'' (PM-KISAN). The comments come in an escalating war between Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and the BJP in the run-up to the Bengal election in four months.
"If you listen to a 15-year-old speech of Mamta Ji, then you will know how much her ideology has ruined Bengal," he said.
"The public is watching those doing selfish politics very closely. The parties that do not speak on the benefit of farmers in West Bengal are engaged in harassing the citizens of Delhi here in the name of the farmers and are ruining the economy of the country."
The Prime Minister was speaking at an event in which he distributed Rs 18,000 crores to over nine crore farmers against the backdrop of unrelenting protests near Delhi over three new farm laws. He also interacted with farmers from nine states.
Mamata Banerjee, responding to his remarks, said the Modi Government had "done nothing" to help West Bengal.
"They are yet to release even a portion of the Rs 85,000 crore of outstanding dues that includes unpaid GST (Goods and Services Tax) dues of Rs 8,000 crore," the Chief Minister said.
In his address, PM Modi wondered why there were agitations in Bengal against the farm bills yet no protests were visible against the state government's decision to not implement the PM-KISAN scheme, in which Rs 6,000 a year is provided to small and marginal farmers, payable in instalments of Rs 2,000 each. The fund is transferred directly to bank accounts.
"The entire country is benefiting from the PM-KISAN programme but only one state, West Bengal, has not implemented this scheme. As a result, over 70 lakh farmers are not able to take benefit of this scheme and this money is not reaching them. This is because of politics," the PM said.
According to him, more than 23 lakh Bengal farmers had applied online to take advantage of this scheme, but the state government has stopped the verification process.
The Bengal Chief Minister, who has come out in support of thousands of farmers protesting near Delhi over three laws enacted by the central government, said the Prime Minister "showed his apparent concern for the farmers through a televised address" instead of proactively working to resolve their issues.
"Let me set the record straight - we have always been ready to cooperate in the interest of the farmers. I personally have written two letters and have even spoken to the concerned Minister two days ago but they are refusing to cooperate and are instead indulging in malicious propaganda for political gains. When we are implementing so many schemes with Central Government, the question of not cooperating on a scheme that is benefitting farmers seems absurd," she said in a statement.
"Since you have raised questions on my ideology and commitment to the people of Bengal let me remind you that my ideology is consistent with the vision of founding fathers of this country, and I have wholeheartedly served the people of WB with the right intent, efforts, and with everything I have. For me, the people of the state are my family."
The ruling BJP has launched an intense campaign in its attempt to oust Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress from power in the Bengal election due in four months.
Allegations have been flying between the two parties over issues ranging from political killings to a tussle over Bengal's icons.