What started off as a rally asserting communal harmony on the day the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 ended as a campaign for CM Mamata Banerjee’s ascent as a future prime minister.
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The meeting, held near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Mayo Road on Tuesday, was attended by senior TMC leaders and ministers of the CM Cabinet. State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim set the stage. “There had been attacks in the name of caste and creed and now they are in the name of blocking black money. The time has come that the firebrand leader of Bengal should once again lead us. This is Bengal and not Dadri, Muzaffarnagar or Godhra,” Hakim said.
He added that the country is being led by a “dictator-like, whimsical king” like that from Satyajit Ray’s film Heerak rajar deshe. Ridiculing PM Narendra Modi’s decision to make the country cashless, he said it was a “chimerical idea when there is no bank or post office in 65 per cent of India’s villages”.
“People are losing jobs in the unorganised sector. It (cashless society) will benefit corporate houses while the streetside shopowner will be out of business and people will be forced to buy everything from outlets of big business houses,” he added.
“The BJP, RSS and Modi should not think that India belongs only to them and their stooges. India belongs to everybody. We are all Indians irrespective of our caste creed and religion,” he said. He further said, “The BJP and RSS agenda is to divide the nation on communal lines. Their agenda is to pit one against another. We have to stand united and fight unitedly against these politics.”
After Hakim’s speech, a number of religious leaders took turns to shower praises on Mamata and criticise Modi. “Modi said he had left his home and family for the nation. How will someone who could not take care of his family take care of the country? Mamata has been a gift from God to us,” said Maulana Athar Abbas Rizvi, imam of the Cossipore Masjid.
Similarly, leaders of Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities spoke in favour of the chief minister and how her hands needed to be strengthened, stressing that she would be an apt leader of the country. “Mamata is known for her secularism while Modi only speaks of secularism when he is touring a foreign country. You will have to judge for yourself,” said Syed Md Nurur Rahman Barkati, shahi imam of the Tipu Sultan Masjid.