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Friday, February 26, 2021

Bengal polls shadow looms over debate as Lok Sabha logjam ends

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also accused the BJP of a conspiracy behind the January 26 violence at the Red Fort to sabotage the farmers’ movement and alleged that the Central government has declared a war against Muslims and the farmers.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: February 9, 2021 2:36:11 am
BJP MP Locket Chatterjee (Left) and Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. (PTI)

The West Bengal elections loomed over the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, when it began after a four-day stalemate, with BJP’s Locket Chatterjee accusing the TMC government of “doing politics with Ram and Sita” and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress and Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress slamming the saffron party for “hijacking” the icons of Bengal to weave them into its narrative for political gains.

Chowdhury also accused the BJP of a conspiracy behind the January 26 violence at the Red Fort to sabotage the farmers’ movement and alleged that the Central government has declared a war against Muslims and the farmers. “January 26 is the day when we have the highest number of security people around… how did those people reach the Red Fort? How can one believe that when we have a Home Minister like Amit Shah, people could reach there without getting caught. It happened because you wanted it to happen. Your own people dressed up as farmers and took part in the violence on January 26,” Chowdhury said with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah listening to him in the Lok Sabha.

“You have very smartly and cleverly trapped the farmers. As you could not win the farmers with your force, you used your tricks,” the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha said. Shah just smiled even as some BJP MPs from the backbenches protested.

The Congress leader also questioned the government over leaked WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta allegedly referring to the Balakot airstrike. “Only the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Defence Minister and the National Security Advisor would know it. How did a civilian like Arnab Goswami come to know about it three days ago? It’s a national security issue. It amounts to treason… It’s a violation of the Official Secrets Act,” he said, reiterating his party’s demand for a JPC to look into it.

The debate, which began on Tuesday but was disrupted by the Opposition protests over the contentious farm Bills, resumed Monday after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to the Opposition not to break parliamentary traditions – of debating motion of thanks without disruptions – in the spirit of a healthy democracy.

Initiating the debate, Hooghly MP Chatterjee used her speech — a day after Modi kicked off the BJP’s campaign in West Bengal — to lash out at the ruling TMC and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and said “West Bengal Chief Minister should learn some democracy lessons”.

“When elections are rigged by hooligans, it is called erosion of electoral democracy. When the Home Minister’s helicopter is not given permission to land, it is called erosion of electoral democracy,” she said. In her speech, peppered with quotes and couplets in Bangla and Hindi, Chatterjee warned that the BJP will not let West Bengal become East Bangladesh. Accusing the TMC of “pocketing” funds released by the Central government for schemes for the poor, the BJP MP said, “The Trinamool Congress government has renamed the health schemes and schemes aimed at helping out the farmers of Bengal. The Trinamool Congress has also stopped implementation of Centre’s schemes because they cannot ensure the steady flow of ‘cut money’ from these schemes.”

With both sides fighting over slogans, Chatterjee alleged that the state ruling party has been indulging in “politics over Ram and Sita”. Alleging that the Hindus in the state were not given permission to celebrate their festivals and cases were registered against the BJP leaders for chanting Jai Shri Ram, Chatterjee warned, “People will make you pay for this in 2021.”

“Bengal, where Syama Prasad Mookherjee was born, it is ours. Jai Ma Durga, Jai Ma Kali, khatam karo ye atyaachaar (stop this high-handedness)..Jai Shri Ram, zor se bolo, Jai Shri Ram,” she said at the end of her speech, to loud applause from the BJP benches.

Chowdhury hit back, saying the BJP was “bereft of national icons” and it has been trying to borrow them from others but without following what they said. Slamming the party for its efforts to appropriate Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose for the upcoming elections, the Congress leader said the ruling party only had leaders such as Veer Savarkar who “urged the Hindus to help the British in the Hindu Mahasabha meetings in Mathura and Bhagalpur”.

“You just want Netaji to win the elections,” the Congress leader said, asking BJP leaders to read about national icons and understand the culture of the region before they venture out in order to avoid embarrassing situations such as calling Shantiniketan the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore.

While Chatterjee highlighted the welfare measures of the Modi government, Chowdhury, whose Congress is in alliance with the Left parties to be the third force in the battle, hit out at the BJP for violating the basic principles of plurality. He asked why the BJP government refuses to acknowledge Jawaharlal Nehru who spoke about Atmanirbhar Bharat for the first time. He also took on the government for unleashing a campaign against environmental activist Greta Thunberg for her support to farmers. “You went to the US and said ab ki baar Trump sarkar.. We did not say anything.. Why is this government after an 18-year-old? Are we so weak that the entire government has to be up in arms against her for supporting the farmers? India’s image is getting sullied,” he said.

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