Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday hit back at former party colleague Suvendu Adhikari for calling him “tolabaj bhaipo [extortionist nephew]”, and described the former state transport minister as an asymptomatic Covid-19 patient who betrayed the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The ruling party was happy to “get rid of such viruses”, added Banerjee, who is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.
The MP alleged that the former TMC leader joined the BJP recently to escape inquiries by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Saradha and Narada scams.
Taking a dig at Adhikari in an address to party workers in Diamond Harbour, which he represents in the Lok Sabha, Banerjee said his name did not crop up either in the Saradha probe or the Narada case.
He added, “There were some people in the party who were like asymptomatic Covid-19 patients. We tracked their activities and identified them. We are happy to get rid of such viruses who had betrayed the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. They have been sabotaging the party since the past few months. Recently, Saumitra Khan [former TMC MP] said Adhikari helped him win the Lok Sabha polls from Bishnupur seat on a BJP ticket in 2019. This goes to show how he betrayed the party. He was an asymptomatic betrayer.”
On December 19, Adhikari joined the BJP during Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s rally in Medinipur along with nine MLAs, five of them from the TMC.
In response to the BJP leader’s “extortionist” jibe, Banerjee said: “You have raised a slogan to remove extortionist ‘bhaipo [nephew]’. But who was seen taking money wrapped in a newspaper in the Narada sting operation? Who has been named in the Saradha scam? I am not involved in either the Narada sting or the Saradha scam. It is you who is an extortionist as per the scams. Now you have sold your spine to the BJP and have taken shelter there to save yourself from central agencies like CBI and ED.”
The MP challenged Adhikari to prove his involvement in extortion. “I will accept any punishment in the court of the people. If you have the guts, deploy the CBI or the ED against me,” he added.
Responding to the BJP’s allegations that some senior TMC leaders were involved in coal and cattle smuggling, the TMC leader said, “Cattle smuggling is related to the international border manned by the BSF under the Union Home Ministry. Preventing the smuggling of coal from mines is the Coal Ministry’s responsibility. Both are under the BJP government. Why are they levelling false allegations against us? Those who have been arrested are either BSF or ECL [Eastern Coalfield Limited] officers. If the officers of Ministry Home Affairs are working at my instruction then it is the failure of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He should resign immediately then.”
Banerjee branded as “turncoats” those former colleagues, like Adhikari, who joined the BJP. Accusing them of betraying the soil of Bengal, the MP said they had joined hands with forces that vandalised a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on the Vidyasagar College premises in Kolkata during a rally of Amit Shah in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. The BJP has denied the allegations.
Ridiculing Adhikari for failing to take along his father and two brothers to the BJP, Banerjee said, “You have failed to bloom the lotus in your own house. How can you make the lotus bloom in the entire state? Are you not ashamed to share the same house with them?”
Referring to the attack on BJP chief JP Nadda’s convoy in his constituency on December 10 that caused a row between the state administration and the Centre, Banerjee said, “Someone might have hurled a single brick to the convoy due to frustration over anti-people policies of the BJP government at the Centre. I would request people not to vent their ire by throwing stones. Instead, you should vent your anger through the EVM.”
He added, “Not more than 450 people attended Nadda’s rally in Diamond Harbour. This shows that the BJP has no support base in Bengal and survives only through media hype.”
The MP took a dig at Amit Shah for eating lunch at poor people’s houses during his visits to the state, and said, “It seems Shah and other BJP leaders like to have lunch with TV cameras reporting every bite. They come here to eat at the houses of poor people but never ask them about their condition. But what about visiting the agitating farmers on the Delhi-Haryana border? Why doesn’t he go there to have lunch? It is because he doesn’t have that courage.”
Banerjee also slammed the Centre for stopping the allocation of Rs 5 crore for the development of his constituency under the MPLADS funds since March last year.
“If you are really pro-people, you should not have to withhold that amount citing Covid-19 situation. Instead, you could have stopped the monthly salary of MPs for that period. The BJP government never thinks twice before buying planes but blocks money meant for common people,” he claimed.
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