Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed on Tuesday that the migrant labourers whose hometowns are in West Bengal will not forget Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement labelling “Shramik Special” trains that arrived in the state “corona express”. Shah was addressing BJP workers via videoconferencing through the “Jan Samwad Rally”.

“The name ‘corona express’ that you have given, Mamata didi, will become your exit route,” Shah told Banerjee. “You’ve added salt to the wounds of the migrant workers and they will not forget this.” Shah claimed that while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar allowed 1,700 and 1,500 trains to enter their states, Banerjee gave them a derogatory name.

The West Bengal chief minister had alleged last month that the Railway Ministry was “evacuating Maharashtra and spreading corona to Bengal”, referring to the large number of trains between the two states.

The home minister, referring to Banerjee’s demand that the Centre grant Rs 10,000 to each migrant labourer, said that it is willing to allocate Rs 6,000 crore per farmer if the West Bengal government sends a list. “Why are you stopping your farmers from receiving help from the government?” he asked.

Shah credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi with uniting the country to fight the coronavirus pandemic. He claimed that after Lal Bahadur Shastri, Modi was the first prime minister who could make 130 crore Indians stay at home and maintain self-discipline at his behest.

Attacking Banerjee for not permitting the Ayushman Bharat scheme to operate in West Bengal, Shah said: “Do the poor people of Bengal have no right to receive free and quality treatment? Why then, would you not allow the Ayushman Bharat scheme here?” He accused Banerjee of doing politics on the rights of the economically weaker sections.

‘Communal violence continues in Bengal’

The home minister claimed that West Bengal was the only state where communal violence was still going on. “I assure you that BJP isn’t here just to bring a revolution or do politics, but also build a cultural and traditional Bengal again,” Shah said. “More than 100 BJP workers have sacrificed their lives to build Sonar Bangla since 2014. Their sacrifice will be etched in golden letters once BJP fulfills the dreams of the people of bringing about real change in West Bengal.”

Shah said it was a matter of pride for the BJP that the first president of the erstwhile Jan Sangh was Syama Prasad Mookherjee from West Bengal. Shah said Mookherjee gave his life for India’s unity. “Today, Article 370 stands abrogated and Jammu-Kashmir have been mainstreamed with the rest of the country,” the home minister said.

Shah also said that Banerjee can no longer stop the BJP from speaking to the people of Bengal, as they were now doing so virtually. Shah’s event assumes significance given that Assembly elections are to be held in the state in 2021.

‘Come clean on CAA’

Shah demanded that Banerjee come clean on her stance opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act. “What is your problem if Namshudras and other such communities live respectfully in the country?” he asked. Shah claimed the people of West Bengal will soon ask Banerjee the same questions.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, notified on January 10, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 28 people died across the country in protests against the legislation in December. However, the BJP has defended the Act, saying that it helps persecuted minorities from these three countries get citizenship, as they have nowhere to go to.

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