‘Won’t let India become Pakistan’

Bhabanipur bypoll: Mamata Banerjee is required to win a seat in the state assembly by November 5 in conformity with the constitutional provisions to continue as CM.

Kolkata, west Bengal, India, September 17 : West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that she will not allow the country to turn into Pakistan or the Taliban. While campaigning in the Bhabanipur constituency in south Kolkata where polling will take place on September 30, Banerjee lashed out at the BJP and accused the saffron party of practising divisive politics. Banerjee’s pitch came after the BJP claimed that Bhabanipur will become Pakistan if the TMC wins the by-poll.

“I don’t like the policies and politics of the BJP. They only follow the politics of dividing people on religious lines. In Nandigram, they had said it would become Pakistan (if the TMC wins). In Bhabanipur too, they are saying it will turn into Pakistan. This is shameful,” Banerjee, who is TMC’s candidate from here said on Thursday.

“I want my country to be strong and will protect my motherland with all my might. We don’t want India to become another Taliban (ruled state). I will never allow my country to turn into Pakistan,” she added.

Banerjee had lost to Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP from Nandigram during the assembly election held earlier this year. She has to win this by-poll to retain her Chief Minister’s post.

Criticising the BJP for taking exception to her recent visit to a mosque in the area, Banerjee said the saffron camp has a problem with her visiting a Gurudwara too. “I have visited a mosque; I have visited a Gurudwara also; and the BJP has a problem with both. I don’t bring religion into politics, unlike the BJP leaders who only understand the language of divisive politics,” she said.

On the sizeable Hindi-speaking population of the Bhabanipur constituency, the TMC boss said she would stand by them through thick and thin. “I never differentiate among communities. It is the BJP which destroys brotherhood and social fabric among communities,” she said.

‘I was first politician to oppose demonetisation’

To woo the area’s business community, Banerjee said she was the first politician in the country who had opposed demonetisation in 2016. “I was the first to oppose demonetisation. I know the kind of harassment the business community has gone through during demonetisation. I used to regularly visit Burrabazar (the business hub of Kolkata) and talk to the business community members,” she said.

Hitting out at the saffron camp over its “ploy” to sell off the country’s assets, she said those were not personal property of the BJP. “The government is trying to sell off the entire country. Railways, airports and ports. They want to sell everything off. Can you sell the soil of the country?” Banerjee said.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in August announced a Rs 6 lakh crore National Monetisation Pipeline that will look to unlock value in infrastructure assets across sectors ranging from power to road and railways.

Banerjee said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should speak to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that Covaxin is recognised so that those who availed that vaccine against Covid-19 can travel abroad.

Later, Banerjee visited the Laxmi Narayan Temple in the area and offered puja. She was also seen offering ‘Arati’. A metropolitan constituency, Bhabanipur is home to a large number of Gujaratis and Sikhs, mostly into business, living alongside Bengalis.

Banerjee, who is herself a resident of Bhabanipur constituency, had won the seat twice in 2011 and 2016 but shifted to Nandigram, to dare her former protege and now a BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari in his home turf. Though Banerjee powered the TMC to a resounding win for a third straight term in office, she lost in Nandigram.

Banerjee is required to win a seat in the state assembly by November 5 in conformity with the constitutional provisions to continue as CM. After her defeat in Nandigram, state cabinet minister and TMC MLA from Bhabanipur Sovandeb Chattopadhyay vacated the seat to allow Banerjee to contest from there. Banerjee is pitted against the BJP’s Priyanka Tibrewal and CPI(M)’s Srijib Biswas for the September 30 by-poll. Congress has decided not to field a candidate against her. The votes will be counted on October 3.

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