West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said that almost all Opposition parties will attend her party’s rally in Kolkata on January 19. The Trinamool Congress chief told party workers in Kolkata to start holding booth-level meetings and create graffiti to draw people to the rally, the Hindustan Times reported. “All parties except one or two have confirmed participation,” she said.
However, leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly and Congress MLA Abdul Mannan said the party’s participation will depend on the decision of the high command. Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee member Rabin Deb said the party and its Left Front allies will not attend the rally.
Banerjee also ridiculed the proposed rath yatras by Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah in West Bengal on December 5, 7 and 9, PTI reported. “I have asked my party workers to conduct ‘purification and unity yatra’ to cleanse the areas through which the chariots pass,” she said. “I wonder what sort of yatra it would be with chariots equipped with five-star facilities. It is ‘ravan yatra’, not ‘rath yatra’.”
The chief minister also claimed that the BJP-led government at the Centre was “destroying institutions”. “They are trying to change the way the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bureau of Investigation function,” she added. “The party that has made ‘building statues’ its poll agenda will itself become a statue after the coming Lok Sabha elections.”
Reacting to Banerjee’s statement, West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh alleged that Banerjee was suffering from “fear psychosis” as she feared losing to the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He claimed that the rath yatras were aimed at restoring democracy in the state. Ghosh also said that Banerjee was dreaming of becoming the prime minister by uniting all Opposition leaders, but this would remain a “pipe dream”.
CPI(M) leader Samik Lahiri demanded that the state government deny permission for the rath yatras. “But the fact is it won’t do such a thing,” he added. “Both the parties [Trinamool Congress and BJP] are engaged in competitive communalism in the state.”