Mamata in poll action, finally!

Having taken on Modi directly, the West Bengal CM has let out a volley of attacks. Knowing her, the game has only started

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | April 30, 2014




Nothing is more interesting in the business of news or entertainment than getting Mamata Banerjee in full flow. No amount of nasal lectures on development, faux-aggression on women’s empowerment, or a different sort of nasal rage against corruption can drum up what Banerjee can do in a day: just change the whole game. Lock, stock and goalpost.

So even as his other opponents go back and forth between calling Narendra Modi an administrator who (at best) slept during the 2002 riots or (at worst) added fuel to the fire and a chief minister who is (at best) economical with facts on Gujarat’s economic growth and development or (at worst) a liar par excellence, Banerjee has gone beyond all that. She has, without using as many words, suggested that Modi is anti-Bengali (at best) or anti-national (at worst).

Soon after the BJP prime ministerial candidate told a large rally at Serampore (near Kolkata, where India’s own disco-man and gold-coast custodian Bappi Lahiri is contesting on a BJP ticket) that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government is luring illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, and that a BJP government would pack them off, Banerjee let out an upper-cut wrapped in emotion.

"Mr Modi does not know history,” she said. Okay, many have said that before her – history, probably, is a kind of mystery for her Gujarat counterpart. Just as opposition, for Banerjee, is a word imported from Mars – by Maoists.

But she gets better: “He does not know that speaking in Bangla does not make one a Bangladeshi. Modi wants to divide Bengalis and non-Bengalis.” This is unknown territory for even the most hardened Modi baiters: the West Bengal CM is saying the PM aspirant is not just a polarising figure on religious lines – a criticism bandied about against Modi for over a dozen years now – but also one who attempts to divide on linguistic lines, with the people in this belonging even to the same religion.

“Anyone who speaks in Bangla across India is branded a Bangladeshi. This is discrimination. If on Bengal's soil he says Bangladeshis will have to pack their bags and go, people of Bengal will throw him out."

With this, she associates Modi, so far as his remarks on sending back Bangladeshi Muslims and giving refuge to Bangladeshi Hindus, with another version of Raj Thackeray, who has risen to national fame – or notoriety – with his drive against people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh populating Mumbai. And that, surely, is not a very bright image to carry for a PM hopeful.

Going by her record, the attacks can only sharpen from now on – as would the barbs from the other end. So, dear reader, sit back and enjoy the poll show for now.

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