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7 Jan 2017

Narendra Modi at the BJP national executive meeting in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha

TT, Calcutta, Jan. 6: Mamata Banerjee today issued an open call to replace "a Kalidas-like" Narendra Modi with "Advaniji, Rajnathji or Jaitleyji", drawing a distinction between the Prime Minister's camp and the rest of the BJP.
"Let us set aside political differences, draft a common minimum agenda and form a national government at the Centre. Another BJP leader can be at the helm. Advaniji, Rajnathji or Jaitleyji can head it. He (Modi) simply has to go," the Trinamul chief said at a news conference in Calcutta's Town Hall.
"He is like Kalidas, trying to cut the branch he is sitting on.... Only terror and hallabazi (creating commotion) in the name of governance. It is time for President's rule. I appeal to the President to save us. The President and the Supreme Court have a role. No government can bulldoze the people like this," she said.
The chief minister picked up a gauntlet thrown by a BJP leader who had warned her of consequences in other states if his party offices were attacked in Bengal. Mamata said she would send a delegation to Jharkhand, ruled by the BJP, to assess "Singur-style" land acquisition.
"They have said they would beat me up, let's see," she said with a chuckle.
The Trinamul sources said that by floating the names of veteran leader Advani, Union home minister Singh and Union finance minister Jaitley, Mamata had brought to the public domain a "hushed debate" in the ruling establishment at the Centre.
Although the BJP has publicly stood by Modi on demonetisation, a perception has gained ground that most of his colleagues were not taken into confidence till the eleventh hour. However, in the absence of any tangible benefit from the note recall till now, Modi has had to depend on trouble-shooters like Jaitley to manage the adverse fallout.
In the recently concluded winter session of Parliament, which was washed out because of the Opposition's protests over demonetisation and the government's reluctance to face a debate, Advani had publicly expressed annoyance with the ruling dispensation, causing consternation in the Modi-Shah camp.
"On many issues, especially demonetisation, there have been a lot of resentment and angst even within the BJP and the RSS. She (Mamata) showed political sense in trying to highlight that factor," a Trinamul MP said.
Asked on the sidelines of the news conference if she would go to Delhi, Mamata smiled and told this newspaper that the capital was "too cold" at the moment.
"But I will go to some BJP-ruled states, starting with Jharkhand. They have said they would beat me up, let's see," Mamata said, chuckling while referring to the veiled threat issued by BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Vijayvargiya had said in Calcutta on Wednesday that Mamata would face the consequences if Trinamul did not mend its ways and wondered if the chief minister would be able to step out of Bengal if BJP workers in other states "took the cue" from Trinamul.
Mamata said that tomorrow, a delegation led by agriculture minister Purnendu Bose, Salboni (West Midnapore) MLA Srikanta Mahata and Manbazar (Purulia) MLA Sandhyarani Tudu would go to Jharkhand. "They (the Jharkhand government) have forcibly taken away 1,500 acres of tribal land in Singur-style, which is illegal. They (the MLAs) will go, come back and give me a report. Then I will go," she added.
Vast tracts of land have been acquired recently in Jharkhand, which has a significant tribal population, for industrial projects, triggering protests in which seven persons have lost their lives in police firing.
Land has been acquired in tribal-dominated areas such as Hazaribagh, Godda, Seraikela-Kharsawan and Ramgarh.
Recently, the Adani Group identified 2,000 acres in Godda, Santhal Pargana, for a power plant.
In November, the Raghubar Das-led BJP government had passed two bills amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act to facilitate the acquisition of tribal land for specific "public interest projects". Tribals, who constitute 26.2 per cent of the states population of 3.29 crore, feel the move will dilute their right to land and lead to rampant industrialisation. The bills are awaiting presidential assent.
Sources said Mamata could participate in Trinamul's anti-demonetisation campaign in New Delhi on one of the three days between January 9 and 11. On those three days, her party is also likely to organise rallies and demonstrations in Bengal and some other states such as Odisha, Manipur, Tripura, Punjab and Jharkhand.
Without naming arrested Trinamul MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul, in CBI custody in connection with the Rose Valley deposit-mobilisation probe, Mamata slammed Modi and Shah for the alleged misuse of central agencies.
She went on to underscore the impact of demonetisation on the state's economy.
"Demonetisation has cost Bengal Rs 5,500 crore in revenue and directly affected over 1.7 crore people in the state. At least 81.5 lakh workers have lost their jobs in sectors such as tea, jute, jewellery and beedi," she said.
"They are talking of a cashless economy while people are cashless. Farmers could not sow the rabi (winter) crop, because of which there will be an effect on the prices of food items. Restrictions on cash withdrawals have not yet been taken back," she added.

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