Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today took on the BJP over its pre-election promise to turn Bengal into Gujarat and sought the people’s help to prevent such an event. “Bengal thrives on excellence and merit. We cannot allow it to be turned into Gujarat,” the Trinamool chief — who has repeatedly labelled the BJP “outsiders” — was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
“The soil of Bengal is the source of life. We have to protect this soil. We have to take pride in this. There is no one who can come from outside and say this place will be turned into Gujarat,” Ms Banerjee was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
She also emphasized that no religious division will be allowed in the state. “Our message is that we are for all… Humanity is for all whether he is a Sikh, Jain, Muslim or a Christian. We don’t allow any division among them”, she said ta a function in Kolkata.
The Chief Minister’s retaliation about Gujarat comes days after Union home minister Amit Shah’s attack on her government regarding the state’s economy and industry during his visit last week.
Quoting data from 1950s and 1960s, Mr Shah had said industry in the state has been regularly shrinking. “After independence, Bengal would contribute one-third to the GDP. It has fallen ever since,” Mr Shah had said.
“Bengal’s contribution to the Industrial Production right after Independence was 30 per cent, now it is 3.5 per cent. In 1960, Bengal was one of the richest states in the country. In 1950s, Bengal produced 70 per cent pharma products. Now it is around 7 per cent. Bengal jute industries that gave employment to many, are shut,” he said, adding, “Our sankalp is to make Bengal Shonar Bangla once again”.
The Chief Minister had hit back, saying Mr Shah owed her a treat as his government’s data on Bengal’s social and economic parameters proved him wrong.
“Mr Amit Shah now owes me a treat. I want to eat Gujarati food like dhokla and something else that Dinesh Trivedi often brings for me. I can’t remember its name just now,” Ms Banerjee said.
The bitter debate on Bengal versus outsiders has been on since the ruling Trinamool Congress’s turf war with the BJP started.
Mr Shah has set his sights on forming the next government in the state and has claimed that his party is on track after last year’s Lok Sabha election where the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 seats.
During his visit to the state last weekend, Mr Shah had visited the Visva Bharati University, founded in 1921 by Rabindranath Tagore and lunched at the home of a Baul singer.