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BJP and TMC like offering voters two kinds of poison: Brinda Karat

"Whatever the brand, poison kills," says CPI(M) Politbureau member Brinda Karat, warning people in West Bengal against voting for either the BJP or the state's ruling TMC.

With the saffron party making inroads into the state and the fear that Left votes are getting transferred to it enmasse, Karat tried to explain the vacuum created by the Left in a state it ruled for 34 years.

"You can't think that you can taste this poison or that. The TMC's policies have led to great discontent among the people of Bengal against the party. The BJP is using its central-state powers and huge money to claim that it's the only alternative here. It is like offering people two choices of poison - BJP and TMC," Karat told PTI in a recent interview.

Sitting in the CPI(M) office in Belpahari, once a Maoist stronghold, around 200 km from Kolkata, she warned the electorate to not vote for either the Trinamool Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party and said, "Whatever the brand, poison kills."

Discussing the recent clashes in Kolkata, she said it is shameful that participants in a procession led by BJP president Amit Shah vandalised and desecrated a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a beloved symbol of the Bengal renaissance.

"This unprecedented action by these goons is shocking and condemnable and shows the real face of the sangh parivar and its culture. The TMC also played a role to provoke a confrontation as it is equally interested in creating an atmosphere of polarisation.

"The Election Commission must immediately release the unedited official footage of the procession and subsequent events. People of Bengal and indeed all citizens have the right to know the truth," she said.

The extent of the BJP's influence in West Bengal can be seen in Jhargram where the party won in all former Maoists strongholds at the gram panchayat level - Lalgarh, Belpahari, Jamboni, Gopiballavpur, Nayagram and Sankrail - indicating a shift towards the saffron party and a definite transfer of the Left vote.

BJP won two of the state's 42 seats in the last Lok Sabha polls.

According to Karat, the intensity of the attacks on Left cadres has grown from 2011 to 2016.

Claiming that there are one lakh false cases against Left leaders and supporters and approximately 20,000 CPI(M) cadres are still unable to go back home because of continuing TMC terror, Karat said it is difficult to be a Left supporter in the state.

"This is not terror from one party on another. This is a concerted effort in using the state government, the police, and therefore, if you look at it, in all the cases filed by CPI(M) on the attacks there is no chance of justice," she said, decrying what she termed the TMC's "culture of violence and lumpenism".

According to Karat, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and the BJP see the Left as their main opposition in West Bengal and efforts are on to target its supporters.

"This district, where we are now, is predominantly an adivasi district. In the last decade, we have lost approximately around 468 of our best cadres here in the name of Maoist or the Maoist-TMC-BJP gang up. All over Bengal, there is a concerted attack on the democratic rights of anyone who is considered even remotely Left leave alone a CPI(M) cadre," she alleged.

Asked why the BJP had its eye on West Bengal, from where it launched its election campaign earlier this year, Karat said the party's traditional areas are seeing "angry resistance" and rejection of its policies.

"All across the North, particularly in Uttar Pradesh where there are 80 seats to be fought, the 'mahagathbandhan' of the BSP-SP-RLD is playing an extremely important role in the struggle to beat the BJP and RSS... In Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, the BJP is done, so naturally the BJP is looking for other states.

"They are also using the most shameful communal propaganda to try and make inroads," she said.

Attributing the failure of the BJP to implement its 2014 poll promises to its failures in the states, Karat said it is "running away" from any debate or accountability.

"They are replacing this with highly objectionable and toxic language. I say that whenever (BJP president) Amit Shah opens his mouth, it's not words which come out, it's poison," Karat said.

She also alleged a "compromise" between the TMC and the BJP in the state.

"In Raiganj, TMC attacked the Left booths but didn't touch the so-called booths where BJP was present...

"The BJP has used its agencies against Lalu, against DMK, Chandrababu Naidu. Which opposition party has been left out except Mamata? Why for five years on Sharada, Narada where there is so much evidence, were they so soft? Who will answer these questions?"

The West Bengal chief minister, she added, has also never mentioned the Rafale fighter jet deal.