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Saturday, April 17, 2021

CAA in first Bengal cabinet meeting: BJP in manifesto

The BJP will implement the Ayushman Bharat healthcare and PM-Kisan scheme in the state, as well as clear due arrears, and provide 'free KG to PG' education for all women and free travel for them in public transport, the manifesto says.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury , Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
Updated: March 22, 2021 2:57:50 am
Union Home Minister Amit Shah releases BJP's manifesto for the Bengal polls, in Kolkata on Sunday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

THE BJP on Sunday released its manifesto for West Bengal promising to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at the first Cabinet meeting if it came to power. It also promised to provide one job per family in the state, with “chaakri” emerging as a major poll issue.

Unveiling the manifesto, called “Sonar Bangla Sankalpa Patra”, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “We have decided that we will implement the CAA in the first Cabinet meeting itself, besides approving the Ayushman Bharat and PM-Kisan for the benefit of the poor.”

While the CAA was passed by the Modi government in December 2019, it is still to come into force as Rules have not been notified. With poll-bound Assam opposed to the CAA even as large sections in West Bengal support it, the BJP has been walking the tightrope on the matter.

Shah said the BJP will take strict measures against illegal infiltration, while ensuring Rs 10,000 per year for every refugee family for five years through direct benefit transfer, to ensure an “infiltration-free” and “appeasement-free” Bengal. He also promised OBC reservation for Mahishya, Tili and other Hindu communities; Rs 3,000 monthly pension for Matuas and Dalpatis; and making Bengali mandatory in schools till Class 10.

With an eye on women voters, the party promised free education to girls from KG to PG, free public transport for all women, and 33% reservation for them in government jobs.

A Sonar Bangla fund worth Rs 11,000 crore to promote art and literature, a Tagore Prize on the lines of the Nobel Prize, a Rs 20,000 crore Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar Fund to help infrastructure development of schools and universities at par with IITs and IIMs, and a Kolkata fund for the city are the BJP’s other promises.

Addressing an election rally in Bankura, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said BJP governments in both the state and Centre would ensure “double-engine growth”. Claiming there was graffiti on walls in the state where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was playing football with his head, Modi said this was against Bengal’s culture, adding, “Didi, you can kick me, can play football with my head but I will not allow you to kick the development of Bengal and dreams of the people of Bengal.”

At a poll meeting in Egra, East Midnapore, addressed by Shah, three-time Trinamool MP Sisir Adhikari joined the BJP. The father of Mamata aide-turned-arch rival Suvendu Adhikari, Sisir was expected to make the crossover.

Accusing the Trinamool government of not doing anything for development, Modi said people would never have voted for Mamata if they knew her true colours. He said it was in anticipation of her defeat that the Trinamool leader was now questioning the functioning of EVMs.

Referring to the BJP candidate from Saltora in Bankura, Chandana Bauri, the wife of a daily wager, Modi said, “Chandana is the representative of Bengal’s people. She is an example of the development scenario of Bengal. You should help her win with a huge margin.”

Modi accused the Mamata government of widespread corruption. “Where there is a scheme, there is a scam.” He said the state had failed to implement the Krishaknidhi Yojana leaving the farmers of Bengal deprived.

“You keep saying ‘Khela hobe (Let the play begin)’, while people of Bengal have decided ‘Khela sesh hobe (Your game is over)’,” the PM said, adding that on May 2, “Khela sesh hobe, Didi chole jabe, asol poribartan ashbe (The game will be over, Didi will be driven out, and real change will be ushered in).”

In his speech, Shah asked the people of Bengal to decide whether they wanted a “Sonar Bangla” or a “bhaipo (nephew)” becoming the CM, and said that under a BJP government, “no one will pay even 5 paise cut money”.

The Union Home Minister also said a BJP government would ensure there were no curbs on religious practices, either Durga idol immersion or Saraswati Puja.

Sharing the stage with Shah, Sisir Adhikari said, “Save Bengal from atrocities. We are with you and our family is with you. Jai Siya Ram, Jai Bharat.” Suvendu would defeat Mamata from Nandigram by a comfortable margin, he predicted.

Suvendu’s brother Soumendu has also joined the BJP, and another brother, Dibyendu, the Trinamool MP from Tamluk, is likely to follow suit.

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