Kolkatta, May 29, 2019: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will not attend the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, after rejecting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s claim that scores of saffron party workers were killed in violence perpetrated by her Trinamool Congress.
The TMC supremo’s announcement on Twitter came in apparent remonstrance after the families of over 40 BJP workers allegedly slain by her party were taken by train to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
Banerjee had on Tuesday received an invitation and told reporters she would attend the event as a matter of “constitutional courtesy” after having spoken to a couple of chief ministers of other states.
However, after it transpired that family members of over 40 BJP workers, who were killed in political violence in West Bengal in the last one year, have also been invited, a livid Banerjee said she will not attend as the “occasion to celebrate democracy should not be devalued to score political points”.
The oath-taking ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party pic.twitter.com/Mznq0xN11Q
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) May 29, 2019
“Congratulations, new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ji. It was my plan to accept the ‘Constitutional invitation’ and attend the oath-taking ceremony. However, in the last hour, I am seeing media reports that the BJP is claiming people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal.
“This is completely untrue. There have been no political murders in Bengal. These deaths may have occurred due to personal enmity, family quarrels, and other disputes; nothing related to politics. There is no such record with us,” she wrote on Twitter.
Banerjee said she, therefore, was “compelled” not to attend the ceremony.
“The ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to score political points. Please excuse me,” she added.
The state unit of the BJP reacted sharply, insisting that over 100 political killings had taken place in the state under Banerjee.
“Our young workers are being killed and hanged from trees. Over 100 political killings have taken place during Banerjee’s rule. We had taken the families of victims of such killings to the President, now we want to present them before the nation,” state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.
Chandra Kumar Bose, a BJP leader and the party’s losing candidate for Kolkata South constituency, said Banerjee cannot escape responsibility for the political killings as she also holds the home portfolio.
Bose, a grandnephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, said the people of West Bengal had risen against the TMC rule in the state where “law and order doesn’t exist and police have become a morcha (front) of the ruling party.” Its consequences were seen in the election results, he said.
The 7-phase Lok Sabha poll in West Bengal was a violent affair, with incidents of violence, arson, and rioting being reported during each phase of polling.
Reports about incidents of clashes between TMC and BJP supporters continue to trickle in, days after the results were announced on May 23.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had made alleged violence by TMC workers against saffron party supporters a major election issue.
Violent clashes had erupted in Kolkata during a road show by Shah in which several people were injured and vehicles burnt. A bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a Bengal Renaissance icon, was vandalized at a college named after him.
Banerjee’s earlier decision to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony was seen by many as an extension of an olive branch to the prime minister after an acrimony-filled campaign and the stunning reverses the TMC faced in the election which saw its tally plunge to 22 from 34 and the BJP’s soar from a paltry two to 18.-PTI
Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi