Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw high-denomination currency from circulation in 2016 as “one of the biggest scams in the country”, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday indicated that a Supreme Court-monitored probe into demonetisation will be initiated once a “new government is formed” after the Lok Sabha polls.
In an indication of her effort to play a role in national politics after the elections, Banerjee on Wednesday announced her party’s manifesto with focus primarily on issues of national importance.
Among other promises in the TMC’s manifesto is simplification of the GST, revival of the Planning Commission, resolving the Kashmir issue, and 200 days’ work with double the pay for MGNREGA workers. Follow more election news here.
Addressing the media at her residence in Kolkata, in the presence of party leaders and Lok Sabha candidates, Banerjee said: “I will discuss the issues with other political parties before the (Opposition’s) common minimum programme is finalised. In 2014, the situation was different. The country has gone through a lot in the last five years, and that’s why we have focused on issues that are of national importance.”
She said, “A new government will be formed after the elections, which will address these issues after discussing them with other political parties.”
Stating that GST was implemented in a hurried manner by the Modi government, the TMC chief said, “We will simplify it once a new government is formed. GST will be reviewed by an expert committee. We will also bring back the Planning Commission — the Commission used to call us (chief ministers) and hold meetings to hear us and plan for development initiatives. This government suddenly abolished the Planning Commission and brought in the Niti Aayog. I have been in two Niti Aayog meetings — one only hears speeches there; nothing happens.”
Banerjee also said she will work on resolving the Kashmir issue, and if needed will stay in the Valley to interact with the people to understand their problems. “I believe the Kashmir issue can be resolved (politically). I volunteered to go during the Kandahar plane hijacking. We have to take people there (in the Valley) into confidence.”
Hoping for hung House, a manifesto spelt Delhi Chalo
The manifesto of the Trinamool Congress and statements of party chief Mamata Banerjee again highlight the West Bengal CM’s aim to emerge as a key player nationally after the Lok Sabha elections, if not playing the role of a kingmaker. The process started long ago, when she spoke about a federal front of anti-BJP parties against Narendra Modi, which saw fruition on January 19 this year with a big rally of opposition parties, with leaders of 25 opposition parties present on the dais at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground. Issues such as doubling man-days and pay under the MGNREGA, a court-monitored probe into demonetisation, reviving the Planning Commission and even a promise to usher in peace in Kashmir in the party manifesto point towards Banerjee’s ambition to play a national role in an event of both the BJP and the Congress failing to get majority. Maintaining close relations with opposition parties from various parts of the country is another tell-tale sign.
Once a new government is in, she asserted, MGNREGA will guarantee 200 days of work (each year) and payment per day will be doubled. “We will also ensure that the payment is made within 15 days. Now there is a delay due to lack of banking infrastructure,” she said.
Banerjee did not comment on the Congress’s minimum income scheme announced by party president Rahul Gandhi.
The TMC manifesto focuses on empowerment of women and youth and more investment on health and education sectors. “Forty-one per cent of our (TMC’s) Lok Sabha candidates are women. In 2014, 35 per cent of our MPs elected were women. We are all for women’s empowerment. Our aim is to strengthen the country’s federal structure and economy, which have been destroyed over the last five years,” Banerjee said.
Highlighting work done by the TMC government, she said, “We do not deliver speeches. We deliver on our promises. We have shown that in Bengal we can bring in development for all — be it the girl child, women, farmers, the youth, or the minorities, we have successful schemes for all.” She maintained that 60 lakh girls have benefited from the state government’s Kanyashree scheme, and 70 lakh people have been brought in from the unorganised sector into the social security scheme. “Farmers’ income in our state has tripled.”
Banerjee refused to comment on Rahul Gandhi’s recent criticism of the state of affairs in West bengal under the TMC. “Some people say wrong things just for the sake of politics. He is a young man; he can say a lot of things. That does not mean I have to comment on what he says,” she said.