Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has decided not to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Thursday. She had earlier said she would attend the event as “constitutional duty and courtesy”. Her U-turn comes after the BJP’s claim of political violence in Bengal, which she has refuted. She had skipped the ceremony in 2014 as well.
“Congratulations, new prime minister Narendra Modi Ji. It was my plan to accept the Constitutional invitation and attend the oath-taking ceremony. However, in the last one hour, I am seeing media reports that the BJP is claiming 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal. This is completely untrue”, her statement on a social media platform said.
It added, “So, I am sorry, Narendra Modi Ji, this has compelled me not to attend the ceremony”.
Banerjee affirmed, “There have been no political murders in Bengal. These deaths may have occurred due to enmity, family quarrels and other disputes; nothing related to politics. There is no record with us”. Modi, in his address in Varanasi, on Tuesday, had claimed that BJP workers are being killed in the state for their ideology. According to reports, the BJP has invited kin of BJP workers, who allegedly lost their lives in political violence in Bengal, as special invitees, in Modi’s oath-taking ceremony.
Banerjee said such a ceremony was an “august occasion to celebrate democracy” and it should not be used to “score political points”. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections witnessed a pitched battle between the BJP and the TMC, not only via the democratic process of polling, but numerous incidents of violence and voter intimidation.
Political observers like Biswanath Chakraborty noted that at least four people were casualties of political violence during the polls while the entire poll season saw 12 people getting killed in political violence.
In another development, another TMC MLA, Manirul Islam and party leaders — Gadadhar Hazra, Mohd Asif Iqbal and Nimai Das – joined the saffron party on Wednesday after two MLAs and over 50 councillors from the TMC camp had crossed over to the BJP. A CPI(M) MLA had also defected.
“There are many in the TMC who wants to join the BJP. They know that the time for TMC is over. These people were intimidated by the TMC from joining the BJP but now they have started coming to us,” Dilip Ghosh, the state’s president of the BJP, who won in the Lok Sabha elections, claimed.
Last month, in one of his campaigns in this state, Modi had claimed that Banerjee is losing her hold in West Bengal as 40 MLAs from her party are in touch with him and they will desert the TMC once the BJP wins. In response, TMC leader Derek O’Brien had claimed that not even a councillor will jump ship.
The 2019 Lok Sabha election results had come as a blow to Banerjee and the TMC, as the party lost its hold on entire northern West Bengal and tribal areas of the western part of the state. Its seat count reduced from 34 in 2014 to 22. On the other hand, the BJP increased its tally from two in 2014 elections to 18.