In Bengal on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the state's biggest festival, the Durga Puja, to launch a sharp attack on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Prime Minister was on a day's visit to the state to speak about his government's initiative for farmers in terms of the recent rise in Minimum Support Price for selected summer crops. But it also served as a platform to launch a sharp attack on the Trinamool Congress government.
As one of the few non-BJP, non-Congress states in the country, Bengal ranks high on the wish list of Amit Shah for next year's general elections. The BJP chief has already handed a 22-plus seat target to the state cadre. Bengal has 42 parliamentary seats.
In his 40-minute address in Midnapore, PM Modi's sharpest attack was reserved for what he called the "appeasement politics" of Mamata Banerjee, saying even Durga Puja, the heartbeat of Bengal, was in danger because of it. The reference was to the Chief Minister's last year's embargo on Durga immersion ceremony in view of Ramzan processions, which had triggered widespread anger in the state.
The Prime Minister also accused the ruling party of running an extortionist regime in the state. Nothing moves in Bengal without paying up money to syndicates, he said. "Whether it is to build schools or hospitals, you have to pay syndicates". He also took on the ruling party over the recently concluded panchayat polls, saying "I salute the brave people coming out to support the BJP despite being afraid."
"Things are worse in Bengal than during the Left rule," PM Modi said. "But while it took 34 years to oust the communists, the people of Bengal will not have to wait very long for the next change."
"The BJP leader's speech proved that they have no development agenda at all. He came and gave a political bhashan. The net result is ZERO, ZERO, ZERO," read a press release signed by senior party leaders Derek O'Brien and Partha Chatterjee.
Hitting back at the PM Modi's accusation of Trinamool Congress being a "syndicate", the party accused the BJP of being a "syndicate that peddles religious extremism", for "fanatics, lynching, torture and corruption".
Accusing the BJP of bringing in people from neighbouring states Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha for the Prime Minister's meeting, the party brushed off his pitch to farmers. According to a parliamentary report, in the first quarter of 2017, the number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra was 635, while the figure for Bengal was zero, the party said.
"Hope the BJP leader has got his answer. These numbers tell the true story of the farmers' situation in the country and their condition in Bengal," the party said.