Back in Bengal on the campaign trail, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched a scathing attack at chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her governance record. But before he got down to critiquing her stint as a two-time chief minister, PM Modi also hurled a dart at Banerjee who had told a rally that she felt “like giving him a slap of democracy”.
“I have been told that Didi said she wanted to slap Modi. Mamata Didi, I call you Didi and will continue to keep doing so. Your slap will be a blessing for me,” PM Modi said at an election rally in Bengal’s Purulia.
But, PM Modi said, Mamata Banerjee wouldn’t have had to worry so much about losing if she had showed the courage to slap her colleagues who cheated the poor in the chit fund scam. “If you had slapped the Tolabaz (extortionists), then the TTT or Trinamool Tolabazi Tax tag wouldn’t have stained your record,” he said.
The BJP and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has been locked in a no-holds-barred contest for 17 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats that are to vote on May 12 and 19. The BJP had lined up six rallies by PM Modi over the next 10 days and deployed its three key strategists – Himanta Biswa Sarma, Sunil Deodhar and Arvind Menon – who have a track record of scripting victories for the party.
PM Modi and the BJP’s focus on Bengal also stems from the party’s performance in the March panchayat elections where the party had emerged as a close second. BJP leaders have also pointed out to the steady increase in the party’s vote share over the last decade or so, up from a mere 4 per cent in 2011 assembly elections to 10 per cent in 2016 and 17 per cent in 2014.