PM, Mamata locked in a blame game over vandalisation of Vidyasagar statue in WB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were on Thursday locked in a blame game over the vandalisation of the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in the violence at BJP chief Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata and traded barbs over building a new statue of the 19th century Bengali icon.

As the bitter campaign in the TMC-ruled West Bengal that was curtailed by a day headed to a close tonight, Modi said his government was committed towards Vidyasagar's vision and promised to install his grand statue at the same spot in Kolkata.

Rejecting Modi's offer, Banerjee said Bengal does not need BJP's money and that the state has enough to rebuild the statue. "We do not seek alms from the BJP."

The prime minister and the Trinamool Congress(TMC) supremo also traded charges as to who was responsible for the vandalisation of the bust.

While Modi said the bust was vandalised allegedly by "TMC goondas". Banerjee claimed it was BJP "hooligans" who had destroyed a heritage of the state.

"We have been witnessing the attitude of didi for long and now the country is also seeing it. Dedicated to the vision of Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar, our government will install a panchdhatu (made up of five metals) statue at the very spot and give a reply to TMC goondas," he said addressing a poll rally in Mau in Uttar Pradesh.

"The statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was broken by TMC goondas during the road show of BJP President Amit Shah. Those involved in this act should be given strong punishment," the prime minister said.

Addressing another rally at Mathurapur in West Bengal, Modi alleged that the West Bengal Police, in connivance with the state government, was trying to wipe out evidence of the vandalisation.

He also repeated the charge that workers of the TMC was responsible.

"TMC goons are spreading violence, and they vandalised the statue of Vidyasagar. The way the state government erased proof of the Narada and Sarada scams, in the same manner, it is trying to remove evidence in this incident," he said.

"Those involved in the act of vandalising the statue should be given exemplary punishment."

Police officers are trying to wipe out the evidence of the incident in order to save the TMC goons, Modi alleged.

"The TMC and their goons have made Bengal a hell. Those involved in this act, in this sin should be given strong punishment," said Modi repeating his statement targeting the ruling party.

Banerjee told a rally in Mandirbazar that it is a matter of shame for Bengalis that the bust of Vidyasagar was vandalised.

"Bengal does not seek alms from BJP. We have the money for a new bust of Vidyasagar, who was part of Bengal Renaissance. Don't you (BJP) feel ashamed saying that Bengal has been reduced to a state of being a pauper".

Banerjee was referring to a comment by Shah at a poll rally at Canning earlier this week in which he had said that under Banerjee government "sonar(golden) Bangla has become kangal(pauper) Bangla".

Hitting back at Modi's charge that TMC goondas were responsible, the feisty TMC supremo called the prime minister a liar, the "like of which was never seen in the country".

"He (Modi) should squat holding his ears for destroying a heritage of the state," she said.

"The media has shown how Vidyasagar's bust was broken. Bengalis' pride is hurt that they will not spare BJP. They will not give it (BJP) a single vote .... It will be very surprising if Modi gets a single vote from Bengalis," Banerjee claimed.