At a time the BJP is engaged in a bitter electoral fight with the ruling party in West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the TMC chief, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, sends him kurtas and sweets on more than one occasion each year.
“People will be surprised to know this — (and) it may even damage me in the elections — Mamata-didi sends me gifts. She selects at least one or two kurtas herself and sends them to me. She still sends me one or two kurtas every year,” Modi told actor Akshay Kumar in an interaction broadcast on Wednesday.
Modi also said Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sends him new kinds of sweets occasionally. “Once Mamata-didi found out, she too started sending me sweets…once or twice a year,” he said.
Addressing two rallies in West Bengal hours after the interview was telecast, Modi unleashed a scathing attack on Banerjee, calling her “sticker didi”, for ostensibly putting up state government stickers welfare schemes of the Central government.
Apparently replying to Modi’s remarks on gifts he gets from her, Banerjee said at a rally in Srerampore, Hooghly district, without naming the Prime Minister: “It is Bengal’s culture to welcome guests with sweets and tea. We also greet them on special occasions. This is our tradition. We welcome guests with sweets and gifts, but they (BJP) will not get votes.”
At another rally in Krishnanagar, she said, “We speak gently, have sweetness and we feel for others when we say something…. We love and respect each other…. The people of Bengal believe in peaceful coexistence — that’s our culture”.
Reacting to the interview, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said, “Akshay Kumar is a great actor. An unsuccessful politician who has decimated India’s economy…made life hell for India’s farmers and the poor (is) now trying to become a better actor…. It seems a failed politician who is about to be rejected on May 23 is looking for an alternative employment avenue in Bollywood.”
In his conversation with Akshay, Modi said many leaders from other political parties are his “good friends”. He recalled one such instance, when, as the Gujarat chief minister, he had gone to Parliament: “(Congress leader) Ghulam Nabi Azad and I were engaged in a friendly chat. When we came out, the media started asking us how come we spoke so much and shared tea. They wondered how an RSS person like me is friends with Azad.”
Mentioning that Azad gave a “good response”, he said, “He told them, ‘You may not know how strong a bond we politicians share — we are like a family’.”
Asked about retirement plans, Modi said extending his sleeping time would be one agenda. He said a lot of people around him have started worrying about his lack of sleep. “Even President Obama has asked me ‘Why do you do it, Narendra Modi-ji?’ We (Obama and I) are good friends….He told me, ‘you are a workaholic’. Whenever he saw me, he asked whether I had extended the time of sleep.”
But, Modi said, his “body cycle” has become such that and he is instantly alert the moment he opens his eyes. “I open my eyes, and the next moment my feet are on the ground,” he said.