While one has witnessed Prime Minister Narendra Modi address crowds in the local language since 2014, this was an occasion when he made a parody on the slogan of the rival. The prime minister today used West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s “Khela hobe (the game is on)” catchphrase to attack her and said: “Didi, O Didi — you have played for 10 years. Khela shesh hobe, vikas aarambh hobe. (Now your game is over and development will begin),” never mind that the Bangla for ‘development’ is not vikas but unnayan.
Modi was speaking in Purulia, campaigning for the eight-phase West Bengal election beginning 27 March. The ruling BJP is conducting an aggressive campaign to topple the two-time chief minister and her All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) from power.
Modi targeted Mamata Banerjee over what he called corruption and lack of development in the state, switching off and on to Bengali in the region that is dominated by rural areas.
“Didi bolti hain khela hobe, BJP kahti hai chakri hobe; Didi bolti hain khela hobe, BJP bolti hai shikkha hobe; Didi bolti hain khela hobe, BJP kahti hai vikas hobe; Didi kahti hain khela hobe, BJP kahti hai mahila sashaktikaran hobe; Didi kahti hain khela hobe, BJP kahti hai apnar paka ghar hobe, porishkar jal hobe, protyek ghore kole jal hobe [Didi says she will play a game; BJP says there will be jobs. Didi says she will play a game; BJP says there will be education. Didi says she will play a game; BJP says there will be development. Didi says she will play a game; BJP says women will be empowered. Didi says she will play a game; BJP says you will live in concrete houses; you will get clean water and every house will get water from their taps],” said the prime minister, campaigning in West Bengal days ahead of a make-or-break election.
Addressing a big crowd in a tribal zone of Purulia, Modi accused Banerjee of encouraging Maoists, the very power she used to be wary of early during her tenure, much as she had taken their help in the Jangalmahal area to ascend to the seat of power. “We know Didi and her people are even encouraging Maoists,” Modi alleged.
Declaring that the days of the Trinamool in Bengal were numbered, the prime minister said in Bangla: “Atyachar onek korechho, Didi. Ebar Ma Durgar ashirbad korbay tomaye opodostho (You have oppressed people for long. Now with blessings of Ma Durga, you will be defeated).”
Attacking the alleged culture of extortion in the state under AITC rule, BJP’s greatest star campaigner introduced his version of the ruling party’s pop initials. He said the TMC stood for “Transfer My Commission”.
His government, the prime minister said, was doing DBT or Direct Benefit Transfer big-time whereas “in Bengal, it is TMC, Transfer My Commission”.
The prime minister accused the AITC regime of cheating the tribal people and the poor by depriving them of benefits from the union government.
“The cut money, tolabaji (ransom), has hurt the poor and tribal people the most,” he told the gathering in the adivasi-dominated region.
“We send money for houses for the poor, Trinamool’s tolabajes extract their commission from it. We send cheap rice for the poor. Trinamool’s tolabajes do not spare even that. We provided free rice during the lockdown, Didi’s tolabajes scammed it. When Cyclone Amphan hit the state, we saw the same problem. people got no relief from the Trinamool’s ‘cut money’. Our santhal (tribal) brothers of this region… farmers have been seeking help. But Didi has left them to fend for themselves.”
The prime minister spoke also for the first time on Mamata Banerjee’s injury. After giving two versions of the incident of her sustaining leg injury in Nandigram, she has been alleging while campaigning in a wheelchair that she had been attacked. “When Didi got hurt, I was worried. I pray for her quick recovery,” Modi said.
Mamata counters Modi
“I have been beaten. I have had surgeries on my hand, stomach. My legs were in good shape but now they are injured, my heart is hurt. I got my leg dressed yesterday but it is still not recovered. Yet I came back, because if there is a snake at the door, a tiger at the door… we cannot allow them to enter,” Mamata Banerjee said today in Garbeta at a rally that was organised around the same time as Modi’s rally in Purulia.
The prime minister came up with his own set of promises to challenge the promises made by the chief minister of West Bengal, saying, “The countdown has begun. On 2 May Didi is going. Ashol Parivartan is coming. Have no fear.”
In Garbeta, the chief minister accused the BJP of grabbing farmland and cheating farmers. Referring to the BJP’s high-voltage campaign, Banerjee said, “They (BJP) have booked all hotels, so many helicopters. They are spending money, 1,000 leaders have come from outside. But we have our women who work. We don’t want revenge… We want peace. But don’t let them grab your land. Don’t let them grab your crop. Modi’s people will do it. We will not allow it.”
The AITC accused the prime minister of making empty promises and not delivering on them.
“This election is a fight for the constitution,” said AITC parliamentarian Derek O’Brien said on television. “You destructive party, I want to ask the PM only one question. Who is your Chief Minister candidate? We have Mamata Banerjee. Why can’t you name one? You know why? Because if you name A, then B and C will revolt. I challenge you. Name your chief minister,” said the Rajya Sabha MP.