West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Dilip Ghosh dared Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday (July 21) to name the CBI officers, who had allegedly threatened Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders to join the saffron camp.
Addressing the Martyrs’ Day rally at Kolkata on Sunday, Banerjee, who is also the TMC supremo, alleged that central agencies were threatening leaders and elected representatives of her party to “get in touch” with the BJP or face a jail term in chit fund scams. She, however, did not name any central agency.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are separately probing two multi-crore-rupee Ponzi scheme cases in West Bengal. Ghosh said that the chief minister was “trying to malign the CBI” as she was afraid of the investigations being conducted into the chit fund scams.
“Today, she (Banerjee) alleged that CBI officers had asked her party workers to get in touch with the BJP or face imprisonment in connection with the chit fund scams. I challenge her to name the CBI officers, who threatened her party leaders. If she is unable to name any officer, she should refrain from making baseless allegations,” he said at a press conference here.
Reacting to Banerjee’s allegation that the BJP was luring TMC MLAs with ₹2 crore in cash and a petrol pump, Ghosh said that none of them, not even the chief minister, had such a high “market value”. Banerjee alleged on Sunday that the saffron party was trying to “replicate Karnataka’s horse-trading model” in Bengal by offering ₹2 crore in cash and a petrol pump each to her party MLAs.
“None of the TMC MLAs have such a high market value. Even if they stand idle on the road, no one would be interested in buying them. Not even Banerjee has such a high market value,” the state BJP chief said.
Responding to the TMC supremo’s statement that a probe would be ordered to ascertain if state BJP leaders were taking commissions to extend the benefits of the Centre’s Ujjwala scheme to the beneficiaries, he said that the allegation was bereft of truth.
“She has been saying this for the last few years. Why didn’t she take any action in the matter all this while? No BJP leader is involved in any scam. Paying cut money to TMC leaders, however, has become a way of life in Bengal,” Ghosh asserted.
He claimed that the rally organised by the TMC annually witnessed the lowest turnout in its history this year. “It is clear that people have rejected Mamata Banerjee and her party. Even the lure of money and a good lunch could not ensure a jam-packed venue. It shows that the TMC has lost ground in Bengal,” the state BJP chief said.
He also rejected the chief minister’s contention that the railways curtailed services to stop her supporters from joining the rally as “an excuse to justify the poor turnout”. “She (Banerjee) no longer attracts the masses, so she is trying to find excuses for the poor turnout at today’s rally. The fact is that more trains were pressed into service, but the compartments were unoccupied,” Ghosh said.
Taking a dig at the TMC chief, Union minister and BJP leader Babul Supriyo said in a tweet, “19 mein HALF huye, 21 mein SAAF hojayenge (Trinamool Samabesh).” (The TMC was reduced to half its strength in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it will be wiped out in the 2021 state Assembly election).
The Martyrs Day rally is organised by the TMC every year on July 21 in the memory of 13 Youth Congress activists killed in police firing in 1993 during the Left Front regime in West Bengal. Banerjee was a Youth Congress leader at that time.
Meanwhile, two actors of the Bengali film industry — Rimjhim Mitra and Surojit Chowdhury — joined the BJP on Sunday, three days after 12 other actors joined the saffron party in New Delhi.