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CPI(M) Hints at Mamata-BJP ‘Nexus’ in V-P Voting Abstention

West Bengal CPI(M) secretary MD Salim has alleged that the TMC chose to abstain from voting for the omission of Abhishek Banerjee’s name from the CBI’s coal scam charge sheet.
Mohd Salim

Kolkata: CPI(M) state secretary and former Lok Sabha member MD Salim has alleged behind-the-scene parleys between chief minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the reason for the Trinamool Congress’s (TMC) decision to abstain from voting for Opposition candidate Margaret Alva in the vice-presidential election on August 6.

In a shocking announcement being seen as a blow to Opposition unity, the TMC said after an hour-long meeting at Banerjee’s residence on Thursday that it could neither support the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate and former West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar nor Alva because it had “not been consulted” on her candidature.

It can be recalled that Mamata met Dhankhar and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma in Darjeeling a few days before the NDA announced its vice-presidential candidate. Alleging that Sarma was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emissary, Salim said, “What transpired between the Centre’s emissary and the West Bengal chief minister is now crystal clear.”

Alleging that it has been the “TMC’s tradition to abstain from voting on important issues in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to give advantage to the BJP”, Salim told reporters in Kolkata, “Mamata Banerjee chose to break Opposition unity in exchange for the omission of her nephew’s [Abhishek Banerjee] name from the CBI’s charge sheet on the coal scam.”

Mamata had attacked the Left during the TMC’s most important annual event Shaheed Diwas (Martyrs’ Day) at Dharmatolla earlier on a rainy Thursday.

Threatening the CPI(M), Banerjee said if the party “continues to target her”, she will have to “rethink” her pacifist slogan of “Amra bodol chai, bodla noi (We want change, not revenge)”, coined during the 2011 Assembly elections after which she was elected CM.

On July 21, 1993, when Jyoti Basu was the CM, the police fired at a Youth Congress rally led by Banerjee against the Left Front government, killing 12 people. Interestingly, the then-home secretary of the state Manish Gupta is now a TMC leader.

Banerjee also lashed out at CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member and noted lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya alleging that the recruitment of primary teachers is on hold after he “counselled” the candidates of the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) 2014 to file a court petition alleging irregularities in the exam. The Central Bureau of Investigation in investigating the alleged irregularities in the recruitment process.

The CM further accused Bhattacharya of fudging with birth certificates to provide teaching jobs during his tenure as Kolkata’s mayor. Banerjee also took a potshot at CPI(M) mouthpiece in Ganashakti Patrika alleging that the wives of its reporters bagged government jobs in lieu of Rs 10 lakh-Rs 15 lakh during his tenure.

Bhattacharya was quick to retort to her allegations. “Mamata Banerjee can form a one-member commission headed by her to probe me. If she can prove anything, I will send her a container of rosgullas. Otherwise, she has to go to a mental asylum,” he told Newsclick. Salim too claimed during the press conference that merit was the only criterion in selecting TET candidates during the Left Front rule.

Interestingly, unlike her attacks on the BJP during election campaigns, Banerjee’s criticism of the party was not harsh. Despite slamming the Centre for imposing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on essential commodities, she stopped short of making a decision like the Kerala government’s refusal to tax items sold by entities like Kudumbashree or small stores in one or two kg packets.

The CM also announced that Deucha Pachami coal project, in Birbhum, will be taken up seriously irrespective of the tribal opposition and claimed that it will “create 1 lakh jobs in the region”.  

Banerjee urged the common people to hand over corrupt TMC members to the safe custody of the police instead of taking the law in their own hands. She also threatened to gherao New Delhi if her demand for MGNREGA funds for this financial year is not fulfilled. The Centre has not provided the funds to West Bengal due to alleged misappropriation of earlier funds.

Reacting to the CM’s speech, Salim alleged “unmanageable corruption” in the state—be it in recruitment of teachers or in MGNREGA.  He also accused Mamata of being “silent to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s blueprint of dividing the country”.

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