Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi on Saturday to make the Trinamool Congress’s “outsider” remark about the BJP ricochet back to Mamata Banerjee’s campaign.
One of the Trinamool’s key arms in the West Bengal election campaign was to depict the BJP as a foreign party. Ms Banerjee has repeatedly cautioned that the BJP will “destroy Bengal’s culture” in her attacks on PM Modi. Ms Banerjee will also run for the next general election from Varanasi, according to the Trinamool, in response to question by PM Modi about whether she would run from a different seat than Nandigram due to “insecurity” in the Bengal election.
“BJP wants to divide Bengal… These people want to end Bengal, its language, its culture. I request all the minority brothers and sisters not to allow their vote division,” Ms Banerjee, on a wheelchair nursing her plastered leg, said.
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At another rally in a distance of 60 km from Ms Banerjee, PM Modi replied, “Didi is now looking for a place outside. Welcome to Varanasi. There is a ship that goes from Haldia to Varanasi. One more thing, the people of my Benaras, they are so large hearted they won’t call you a tourist or outsider. They are as large hearted as the people of Bengal,” the Prime Minister said.
“In Varanasi, you will find a lot of people with tilak, saying Jai Shri Ram. Didi, then what will happen to you? Who will you be angry with?” the Prime Minister said, adding, “Don’t be angry with the people of Benaras. They will live with you. They will not let you go to Delhi. They will keep you there itself.”
PM Modi was elected to the Lok Sabha twice from Varanasi, in 2014 and 2019.
When Ms Banerjee drove into a town in Bengal during campaigning for the general election in May 2019, she was greeted with “Jai Shri Ram” slogans. When slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” were shouted, she was walking past some supporters lined up along the lane.
The Trinamool Congress leader rolled down her car window and motioned for the driver to come to a halt. She then left the bus and demanded that those yelling slogans come up to her and speak with her. They did, however, flee. Ms Banerjee walked away, muttering her favourite word “Haridas” under her breath.
While Haridas Pal is the name of a fictional character who was thought to be learned and noble, Bengalis use it to ridicule those who have grandiose delusions.
In February, Home Minister Amit Shah under Modi took a shot at Ms Banerjee over the slogan, claiming she would start chanting it herself by the time the assembly election was over.