Modi, Mamata in war of words in Bengal's tribal belt
By  IANS | Updated:  May 10, 2019, 02:33 PM
A verbal battle ensued between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday as the two political heavyweights tore into each other while addressing election rallies in Bengal's tribal belt that would go to the polls on May 12.
Polling will be held in eight of West Bengal's 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the sixth phase, including a number of seats falling under tribal-dominated Junglemahal area, comprising Purulia, West Midnapore, Jhargram, parts of Bankura and Birbhum districts.
Modi and Banerjee both held rallies in Bankura and Purulia districts on Thursday where they wooed the tribal voters with promises of development and attacked each other on issues of corruption, violence and political high-handedness.
During his Purulia rally, Modi accused the leaders of Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress of being involved in illegal coal mining and depriving mine workers of their remuneration.
"You know better how Trinamool's mafia raj is continuing in coal mines here. Trinamool leaders are making money while mine workers are deprived of their remuneration.
"Purulia is endowed with natural resources. You are sitting on black gold. Till now, successive governments in the state have established mafia raj here. In fact, the Trinamool government has made mafia a part of its activities," Modi said in Purulia.
The BJP has made inroads in Purulia since the the state rural body election in 2018 and is hoping to win the parliamentary seat this time as discontent with the state's ruling regime is growing among a section of the locals.
The PM also took potshots at Banerjee for wanting to give him a "tight slap of democracy" and said he would accept it as "blessings" but quipped that had the Trinamool Congress supremo showed the guts to "slap her colleagues who stole money from the poor via chit funds, she would not be so scared of losing the elections".
Banerjee, who held a rally in the same district shortly after Modi, was quick to hit back saying she will withdraw party nominees from all the 42 Lok Sabha seats if even one if her party colleagues was found involved in any coal scam.
However, she challenged Modi to do "100 situps holding his ears if he failed to prove that her candidates belonged the coal mafia."
Banerjee, a trenchant critic of Modi, also clarified that she never spoke about slapping him physically, but said people of the country will give him a slap of democracy by voting against him in large numbers.
Banerjee claimed she is in possession of a pen drive, and that if she makes it public, "many secrets about cattle smuggling and coal mafia will tumble out of the closet".
Addressing the crowd in Purulia, once a hub of Left-wing extremism, she claimed that her government has "successfully eradicated Maoist problems" from those areas while governments run by BJP in other states have failed to do so.
While addressing a large gathering in Bankura earlier in the day, Modi said Banerjee is insulting the Constitution by saying that she is not ready to accept him as the prime minister of the country.
"Didi (Banerjee) is publicly saying she is not ready to accept the country's PM as the head of the nation, but she feels proud in acknowledging Pakistan PM as that country's prime minister," he said.
The Bengal Chief Minister had earlier said she does not accept Modi as the Prime Minister anymore and would talk to the new Prime Minister after the 2019 polls.
During her rally in the same district, the Bengal Chief Minister responded to Modi's barbs saying she had shown courtesy to the Prime Minister by delaying her meeting there.
Banerjee, however, renewed her attack on the BJP and accused it of inconveniencing the people of the country by stretching the elections for seven phases for their own benefits.
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