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Poll effect: Mamata offers to quit as CM, party rejects

Press Trust of India  |  Kolkata 

Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee Saturday offered to quit as chief minister of West Bengal following her party's drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, but the TMC rejected it.

Addressing her first press conference after the election results were declared, she accused the BJP of polarising people on religious lines to garner votes in West Bengal and wondered if some "sort of setting or foreign power" played a role in such a huge victory of the saffron party.

West Bengal witnessed a saffron surge on Thursday as the BJP inflicted a deadly blow to ruling Trinamool Congress by winning 18 of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The TMC won 22 seats, down from 34 in 2014.

"I wanted to resign from the post of chief minister. The chair is nothing for me. But, the party rejected it. I don't need the chair, but the chair needs me," said Banerjee after an hour-long meeting with all candidates and senior leaders of the party.

Claiming that her government has fulfilled all the commitments made to the people, Banerjee said she now will concentrate more on her party.

"One party that did not commit anything, won seats. I think, I have done more for people. Now I need to work for my party," she said.

"Money power and religious divide prominently came into play. The administration was taken over by ECI for last five months. How can I remain the chief minister in such a scenario? That's why I had offered to step down," she said.

The BJP which had only two Lok Sabha seats in last general elections and hitherto not a major force in the state did better than the Left Front and the Congress after good performance in the last year's rural polls to emerge as the main challenger to the TMC in Bengal.

The 64-year-old Banerjee also raised suspicion over BJP's stellar poll performance across the country.

"This huge victory is not beyond suspicion. It is quite astonishing how opposition is completely wiped out in several states," she claimed.

She alleged that EVMs were programmed to give the BJP a lead of more than a lakh.

"Foreign hand might also be involved in this. Votes were bought spending crores of money. In north Bengal, we share border with Assam. That state's finance minister (Himanta Biswa Sarma) was sitting here for two weeks. What was he doing here? BSF took voters and forced them to vote for them. Election Commission is the man of the match of the election," the TMC supremo alleged.

Reiterating her previous stand that the ECI was "biased", Banerjee claimed that central forces were used to intimidate voters to vote for the saffron party.

She also said that an emergency-like situation was created in the state by the BJP to win the elections.

Renewing her attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, Banerjee said, "Rajiv Gandhi got 400 seats. Could he run Parliament? So, such arrogance is not good. Opposition leaders were called Pakistanis when they raised questions. Now why is the Pakistan PM invited? Isn't it anti-national?"

She reiterated that she will continue to fight against communalism.

"I will attend Iftar party. You may say I appease Muslims. You can say that, its your prerogative. But, I am ready to be kicked by the cow which gives milk," she said in an apt reference to Muslims voting in her favour.

Banerjee declined to accept that there was any "Modi wave" and claimed that the BJP had "looted" votes in a systemic way to get these numbers.

"How is it possible that the Congress failed to win even one seat in Gujarat, Haryana, or Delhi. What about Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which Congress won just few months back? Should I accept that there everything was in order, there was no manipulation," she said.

Banerjee also reiterated that she will not allow NRC in Bengal. However, she said that she will provide constructive cooperation to the Union government.

She alleged that central government officers were used to distribute money, and admitted that some of Trinamool Congress leaders also succumbed to the lure of money.

When asked is she worried that BJP might topple her government, she dared the BJP to do so.

"Let them try. Is it so easy? Why is the BJP so hungry (for power in the state)? Why are they in such a hurry," she asked.

If the data of the national polls are analysed assembly segment-wise, the BJP is ahead in nearly 130 of the 294 assembly constituencies in the state, the majority mark being 148. West Bengal will go for assembly polls in 2021.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, May 25 2019. 21:20 IST