Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's appeal to Bengal's Muslim population not to divide their votes indicates that she has lost their support, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today. While on the subject, he also pointed out that a similar appeal to Hindus from the BJP would have drawn the wrath of the Election Commission and media on the party.
Campaigning in north Bengal's Cooch Behar as the third phase of elections in the state is in progress, the Prime Minister also told the crowd that he would return their love "with interest, in the form of development".
With 27 per cent of Bengal's population comprising Muslims, the votes are critical for Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress as it contends with the BJP challenge. But this time, the entry of two Muslim leaders -- All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen or AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and a religious leader from Furfura Sharif -- has queered the pitch.
"Dear Didi, recently you said all Muslims should unite, and not allow their votes to be divided. You are saying this means that you are convinced that the Muslim vote bank has also gone out of your hands, the Muslims have also turned away from you," PM Modi said.
"That you had to say so publicly -- this shows that you have lost the election," he added.
"Didi, you are abusive towards the Election Commission. But had we asked the Hindus to unite and vote for BJP, we would have got eight or ten notices from the Election Commission. Editorials would have been written about us in the entire country," he added.
The BJP has sought action from the Election Commission against Ms Banerjee, alleging that she has violated Representation of the People''s Act by asking Muslims to come together and vote for her Trinamool Congress.
Ms Banerjee has been vehement about the entry of two Muslim leaders in the poll arena. She has called AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi the BJP's "Team B" and termed the Indian Secular Front -- floated by influential Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui, which is part of the CPM-Congress alliance -- "more dangerous than a cobra".
"A traitor has emerged from Furfura Sharif who has taken money from the BJP. You must remember that you can't win in Bengal through treachery," she had said.
PM Modi also claimed that Ms Banerjee had hurt Bengalis' self-esteem by alleging people come to his rallies for money.
"Didi, people say you play football a lot. In football there is an Own Goal... You have scored a self-goal in the field of elections. You yourself have accepted the truth," he added.