People poured in thousands from all corners of the Diamond Harbour constituency from where Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, is contesting. There were two reasons: First, this being the last rally by the West Bengal chief minister before the end of the Lok Sabha polls; and second, the desecration of the Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s bust, allegedly by Bharatiya Janata Party workers, has hurt Bengali sentiment.
The vandalism of Vidyasagar’s bust and the Election Commission’s (EC’s) unprecedented move to end the campaigning a day earlier have given Mamata a handle to play the Bengali card.
Although most of the attendees at the rally weren’t had much knowledge about Vidyasagar’s contribution towards Indian renaissance, they called him “some great Bengali”. And, it was this pride on which Abhishek Banerjee harped upon. Not only did he promise a cheering crowd of spending Rs 25 crore to build a 50-foot statue of the iconic leader, but he also promised people to erect “tall statutes” of Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Subhas Chandra Bose.
The names and the commitment were enough for the crowd to erupt in loud cheers even as the day temperature soared to 40 degrees Celsius.
And with this, the stage was all set for Mamata to take over. “This is perhaps my last meeting to oust (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi,” she said, as she sharpened her attack on the Modi government for allegedly is trying to dismantle this Bengali pride.“Youth, do you feel dejected? Modi is saying he’ll build Vidyasagar’s statue again, we don’t need him. As the dead cannot be raised to live again, what is done cannot be undone. I ask you to avenge this insult by voting against Modi”.
Cautioning people that Modi and his party are bent on destroying Bengal’s heritage, she said: “Modi is saying we have destroyed the statute. I challenge him to prove it. If the TMC has done it, I will leave politics and do 1,000 sit-ups, holding my ears. I challenge Modi to do the same if his party is found guilty”.
Mamata, thereafter, turned her ire towards the EC for its direction to prohibit political rallies and shows from 10 pm Thursday. “If we cannot hold any political rallies and meetings, then Modi’s campaigns in Uttar Pradesh cannot also be shown in Bengal. The EC has to ensure a level playing field,” she said.
As her speech drew to a close, she expressed confidence that her party will help oust the BJP at the Centre and cautioned to people against paying attention to fake posts and messages, being spread by the BJP, to flare up communal tension in the state.
After singing the national anthem, as she left the stage towards her helicopter amidst people asking for selfie favour, the attendees moved on to a feast with biriyani and other savouries.