Prime Minister Narendra Modi today used his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, to make the Trinamool Congress’s “outsider” comment at BJP ricochet back to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s party.
One of the Trinamool’s main weapons deployed in the West Bengal campaign was to identify the BJP as a party alien to the state. Ms Banerjee in her attacks on PM Modi has often warned that the BJP would “destroy the culture of Bengal”. The Trinamool had also said Ms Banerjee would contest the next general election from Varanasi, in reply to PM Modi asking whether she would fight from another seat, apart from Nandigram, due to “insecurity” in the Bengal election.
Even at a rally in North 24 Parganas today, Ms Banerjee took a swipe over the “outsider” tag that her party has pinned on the BJP. “BJP wants to divide Bengal… These people want to end Bengal, its language, its culture,” Ms Banerjee, on a wheelchair nursing her plastered leg, said. “I request to all the minority brothers and sisters not to allow their vote division,” she said.
At another rally some 60 km from where Ms Banerjee was addressing a rally, PM Modi responded, “Didi is now looking for a place outside. Welcome to Varanasi. There is a ship that goes from Haldia to Varanasi. One more thing, the people of my Benaras, they are so large hearted they won’t call you a tourist or outsider. They are as large hearted as the people of Bengal,” the Prime Minister said.
“In Varanasi, you will find a lot of people with tilak, saying Jai Shri Ram. Didi, then what will happen to you? Who will you be angry with?” the Prime Minister said, adding, “Don’t be angry with the people of Benaras. They will live with you. They will not let you go to Delhi. They will keep you there itself.”
PM Modi won the Lok Sabha election twice from Varanasi in 2014 and 2019.
During campaigning for the general election in May 2019, slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” greeted Ms Banerjee when she drove into a town in Bengal. She was going past some supporters lined up along the street when slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” were shouted.
The Trinamool Congress chief immediately rolled down the window of her car and asked the driver to stop. Then she got off and asked those raising the slogans to come talk to her. But they fled. Ms Banerjee muttered her favourite term “Haridas” under her breath and left. Although Haridas Pal is the name of a fictional character who was considered learned and noble, it is used by Bengalis to mock those suffering from delusions of grandeur.
Home Minister Amit Shah in February took a swipe at Ms Banerjee over the slogan, saying she will herself begin chanting it by the time the assembly election is over.