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24 Mar 2017

Mamata gloves off on BJP

TT, Calcutta, March 23: Mamata Banerjee today projected herself as the "targeted enemy" of the BJP, rooted for Opposition unity and cited the rapid reversal of political fortunes in Bengal to emphasise that the two-year window to the Lok Sabha polls was enough to turn the tide.
In an interview with the news channel ABP Ananda, the chief minister accused the BJP of divisive politics and vendetta, appearing to address speculation that she had mellowed in relation to the ruling party at the Centre in the wake of the Uttar Pradesh election results and legal challenges.
"I am not bound to give replies to these hooligans. I will not surrender before them. I will fight the battle for my people. If they target Bengal, we will target India. We will contest elections from other states too. Two years is a long time. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee came to power in 2006 with 235 seats. However, within two years, his party started losing ground. The BJP must take care of Madhya Pradesh first and target Bengal later," Mamata said.
Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is in power, will go to the polls next year.
Mamata said the 2019 Lok Sabha polls would not be a cakewalk for the BJP if the Opposition remained united.
"Winning UP today does not mean winning India tomorrow. I am not ready to accept that.... Whoever is strong in a state, we should help them fight the BJP," Mamata said.
She alleged the BJP and the RSS had planned to keep her confined to Bengal. "They are targeting Bengal because they want to confine me to Bengal. They know that Bengal can lead the country in the future. So they will try to cut down our seats in Bengal," she said. "The BJP is scared of Bengal in the run-up to the 2019 elections. I am their identified, targeted enemy."
Earlier this week, the RSS had picked Bengal as its next focus area.
Although the chief minister upped the anti-BJP ante, she did not make any personal attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Left and the Congress in Bengal have occasionally insinuated an understanding between Mamata and Modi. The allegation has been revived after the BJP's sweeping success in the Uttar Pradesh elections, where Mamata did not campaign.
Sending out a message of broader unity, Mamata said: "Happy Bengali New Year in advance. I pray that all stay happy and united. No division in society and its people. Unity is our inspiration in life."
In the light of her earlier comments during the interview, many perceived this as a message aimed at uniting the Opposition parties against the BJP and urging the people not to get swayed by the BJP's perceived divisive politics.
Throughout the 110-minute interview, Mamata kept criticising the BJP, accusing the party of dividing the country along communal lines.
She said the Narada payoffs case was a political conspiracy by the BJP.
"It was a political conspiracy and was hatched by three-four people.... The BJP cannot wash its hands of it. How was it (the sting) shown from its office?" Mamata asked.
Mamata had complimented the winners in the five states after the election results were announced on March 11. Today, she blamed the Uttar Pradesh outcome on the failure of the other parties to form an alliance strong enough to challenge the BJP.
"I still feel that if Akhilesh (Yadav, the Samajwadi Party chief) and Mayawati (the BSP boss) unite in UP, they can win 50-60 (Lok Sabha) seats.... Had they fought the (Assembly) elections together, (such a group) would have got another 10 per cent votes," she said.
Mamata mentioned Mayawati's allegation of electronic voting machine fraud in the Uttar Pradesh elections.
"Mayawati has spoken about the EVM fraud. She can move court even now as the EVMs are still in the custody of the Election Commission. If they want, they can challenge," the chief minister said, referring to Mayawati's announcement that she would move the Supreme Court against the alleged fraud.
The chief minister made it clear that all parties were welcome in the fight against the BJP. She referred to the Shiv Sena, saying she kept "in touch to improve our strength" ever since the party joined Trinamul in a delegation against the demonetisation drive.
She stressed the need to take her fight against the BJP to states like Assam, Bihar, Odisha and Tripura.
"Assam is a neighbouring state, so we can fight from there.... We have set up office in Odisha because the Congress has become weak there," Mamata said.
The chief minister alleged she was being targeted for raising her voice against the BJP and pointed to the treatment meted out to her party colleagues "in the name of CBI investigations" into various deposit-default scams.
"Sudipda (MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay) was arrested only because we opposed demonetisation. He is battling for his life for no fault of his. The same thing happened with others like Madan Mitra. But till my last breath, I will raise my voice in favour of the common people," Mamata said.
She added that for the sake of the federal structure, she had not hesitated in supporting "good causes" like the goods and services tax.
Mamata said she was "clueless" about the Centre's thinking on the sharing of the Teesta's waters with Bangladesh.
The issue has assumed significance as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to visit India next month.
In view of the Hasina government's moves to flush out Indian insurgent groups from Bangladesh and allow India transit through the country, the Indian policy establishment is keen on sealing a water-sharing deal with it.
Mamata has maintained that she will not compromise Bengal's interests. "I have heard that some agreement will be signed on May 25.... But I don't know anything about it.... We have good relations with Bangladesh, but for me the interest of the state is paramount," she said.

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