At Martyrs’ Day rally, Mamata Banerjee to BJP: return black moneyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/at-martyrs-day-rally-mamata-banerjee-to-bjp-return-black-money-5840730/

At Martyrs’ Day rally, Mamata Banerjee to BJP: return black money

On Sunday, Mamata accused the BJP of manipulating elections, and demanded the return of ballot papers. “I believe that the results of the (Lok Sabha) elections is a mystery.

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West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee speaks at the rally in Kolkata on Sunday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee alleged Sunday that the BJP was trying to purchase elected leaders of the Opposition across the country, and announced that her party would later this month start a movement for the return of black money from the ruling party.

Mamata was addressing the first Martyrs’ Day rally, the flagship political show that the Trinamool organises in the heart of Kolkata on this day every year, since the return of the BJP to power in New Delhi after a bitterly contested election that saw the saffron party lift its Lok Sabha number in the state to 18 from a mere two.

READ | Mamata accuses BJP of EVM tampering, horse-trading, lynchings

“They (the BJP) are indulging in horse-trading everywhere. They are trying to break (governments) in Karnataka, Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and other states,” Mamata said. “But if you (the BJP) continue to indulge in such activities, one day your back will break, and you will never be able to rise again.”

The Chief Minister claimed that an MLA who had switched to the BJP had told her that he had been offered Rs 2 crore and a petrol pump for joining.

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A different pitch, looking ahead and within

This year’s July 21 Martyrs' Day rally was different. The Chief Minister assailed the BJP with her usual aggression, but importantly, also asked party cadre to go back to the grassroots and work towards the rejuvenation of its bases. The context is the remarkable performance of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and has come to represent the most formidable political threat to the Trinamool since it uprooted the Left Front from power in 2011. With municipal polls looming next year and Assembly elections scheduled for 2021, and the BJP seemingly gaining in strength, the CM spoke about strengthening both booth level workers, and the various wings of the party.

“I have seen governments at the Centre, governments of Rajiv Gandhi or Deve Gowda or even Atalji,” she said. “But I have never seen a government like this. Bills are being planned in the dead of the night and are placed (in Parliament) in the morning. No one is being consulted or informed. The federal structure is being bulldozed,” Mamata said.

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Mamata Banerjee spoke at the Martyrs’ Day rally in Kolkata’s Dharmatala. (Express Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

“After this government came to power, prices of LPG and petroleum were raised. Dalits, minorities, even Hindus were killed across the country,” Mamata told the rally in Esplanade. “The BJP thrives on divisive politics. Dalits were killed in Uttar Pradesh. Priyanka Gandhi was not allowed to visit them. We sent a delegation that was stopped by police there. The government has planned disinvestments worth Rs 1.3 lakh crore. Earlier it was ‘Khelo India’, now the BJP is saying ‘Becho India’. We will start an agitation with the ‘Becho India’ slogan.”

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Different moods of people at the Martyrs’ Day rally, Sunday. (Express Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

The Trinamool’s annual July 21 Martyrs’ Day Rally commemorates the police firing in the state capital on July 21, 1993, in which 13 people were killed during a demonstration by the West Bengal Youth Congress — led by Mamata at the time — demanding that the Voter’s Identity Card be made the sole required document for voting in order that a stop is put to the CPM’s alleged “scientific rigging”.

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People gather at Dharmatala ground ahead of Trinamool’s Martyrs’rally in Kolkata, Sunday. (Express Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

On Sunday, Mamata accused the BJP of manipulating elections, and demanded the return of ballot papers. “I believe that the results of the (Lok Sabha) elections is a mystery. We want ballot papers. Why are there no EVMs in countries like the US, UK, France and Germany? During the (LS) polls, they (BJP) doled out cash and pressed in Central forces. We will ask the State Election Commission to hold elections to panchayat and civic bodies through ballot papers,” she said.

READ | Martyr’s Day rally: Mamata claims train services were curtailed, Railways refute charge

Her direction to her party leaders to return the “cut money” that they had taken from beneficiaries of government schemes was well intentioned, Mamata said, and assailed the BJP for trying to use it to target the Trinamool.

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A sea of people at the Martyrs’ Day rally in Kolkata, Sunday. (Express Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

“We will tell the BJP to first return the black money they used in the elections. Where did you get the money for 5-star party office, for the huge campaign arrangements and to and fro transport? Return the black money and cut money — all that you have taken till now — and used for winning elections,” she said.

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TMC supporters at the Martyrs’ Day rally with an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Express Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

“On July 26 and 27, we will launch a ‘Black Money Phiriye Dao’ (Return Black Money) programme. There will be protests in every block, we will demand from the BJP the return of black money and cut money…”

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Trinamool Congress supporters with cutouts of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Martyrs’ Day rally at Kolkata’s Dharmatala. (Express Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

“We have documents on the BJP asking for cut money — they asked for money for schemes like Ujjwala LPG cylinders — the information is from their own leaders. Action will be taken,” she warned.