Bringing her campaign against demonetisation to Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday urged the people of the poll-bound state to fight “notebandi” with “votebandi of BJP”. Addressing a protest meeting at the busy Women Power Line Chauraha of Lucknow, Mamata gave a 30-minute speech peppered with poems, shayari and barbs aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking the crowd to “oust him from power if he did not roll back the demonetisation”.
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“Uttar Pradesh has always provided leadership to the country. The people of UP have given several prime ministers. You have also given the current prime minister. But the people don’t just know how to give, but also to snatch back. Ab notebandi ke khilaf BJP ka votebandi bhi karna hai (this time, we must oppose the note ban by not voting for the BJP). Not a single vote should be cast in favour of the BJP in the coming elections,” she said.
Calling Modi a “chhupa rustam”, Mamata said that while Indira Gandhi had imposed Emergency after a declaration, Modi had imposed Emergency without one. “Modiji has surpassed (Muhammad bin) Tuglaq and Hitler…he has flouted the constitutional rights of common people…He will now snatch our land and our children’s future. He will snatch our rights. Everything is being done forcibly. This was not done even during Emergency,” she said, calling demonetisation a “black emergency”.
The Trinamool Congress chief said she was ready to go to jail to protest against “Modi’s irregularities”, exhorting the people to make the campaign against demonetisation a “people’s movement” and termed it a “freedom struggle” which should not be given up “as there is a danger to country’s freedom because of Modi”.
Markets were closed across the country after demonetisation and people working in the unorganised sector were heading back home after losing their jobs, she alleged.
“The PM is talking of plastic cards. If someone is getting salary by cheque, how will he buy food? Agriculture production has been halted by demonetisation. If there is no food, will the people eat plastic cards?” Mamata asked. Calling demonetisation a “big scandal”, she alleged that the BJP had deposited Rs 3 crore in its account in two days in her state alone and sent its money abroad. Mamata further claimed that the government had taken the decision to help BJP, RSS and its affiliates.
Claiming that no preparations had been made by the Centre for supply of new currency, Mamata asked how it would supply new notes to 39,000 gram panchayats of UP when there are no banks there.
Accusing the Centre of working to “destroy the country’s federal structure”, she asked why relaxations were given to national highways and petrol pumps but not to cooperative banks of the state government. “Is this a presidential system? There is money being distributed through Big Bazaar but not the cooperative banks,” she alleged.
Reacting to Modi’s direction to BJP MPs and MLAs to disclose their bank transactions to party president Amit Shah, Banerjee said the PM should first disclose his own bank transactions and those of Shah, who she alleged had bought land in Bihar before the announcement of demonetisation.
Mamata said that had she been in Modi’s place, she would have admitted that she made a mistake. Terming the PM’s attack on opposition parties who have been protesting against demonetisation as “wrong”, she said, “Hum bahut bada chor hai aur aap akela sant hai (Are we all thieves and you alone a saint?).” She also said she was in favour of public funding of the elections.
Though Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had received Mamata at the airport on Monday evening, he did not take part in the protest meeting. However, he did send six of his ministers and Samajwadi Party’s national vice-president Kiranmay Nanda to be part of the protest. Nanda said he was asked by SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav to help Mamata with the meeting, adding that the entire party was with her in her campaign. Most of the gathering was comprised of SP supporters.
At the end of her speech, Mamata said she was “grateful” to Akhilesh for welcoming her and gave him her blessings. Emphasising that her protest was a “fight of common people”, she said she would continue to protest until the demonetisation decision is rolled back, announcing that she will visit Patna on Wednesday, followed by other states’ capitals.
Cabinet Minister Arvind Kumar Singh ‘Gope’, who was sent by Akhilesh, said the two chief minister were strongly against corruption and black money, but demonetisation was only causing problems for the common man.