Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday claimed that people are no longer interested in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Maan ki baat’ programme. They, instead, want to hear ‘COVID ki baat’ (COVID- related talk) as the pandemic has left lakhs gasping for breath, amid a shortage of vaccines and oxygen cylinders.
Modi, during his monthly radio broadcast ‘Mann ki Baat’ earlier in the day, said that the COVID-19 “storm” has shaken the country, and urged people to get vaccinated.
Banerjee, during a meeting with party workers at an auditorium in Murshidabad district, claimed that Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah were busy “planning ways to capture Bengal, when they should have been taking appropriate measures” to combat the second wave of the pandemic.
“Who is interested in your ‘Mann Ki Baat’, people now want to hear ‘COVID ki baat’. If there is one infected person in a crowd of 1,000, he can contaminate the rest. Two lakh CAPF personnel came from states like UP, Delhi and Rajasthan and many of them might have been carriers of the virus without their knowledge as no RT PCR tests was conducted by the EC.”
Cautioning voters against the possible visit of central forces accompanied by BJP men at their residences for “intimidation”, Banerjee said, “Please ask them to maintain distance as you don’t know if anyone of them is carrying the virus. Mothers and sisters, tell them we are not allowing outsiders inside the house.”
Iterating her charge that some EC special observers have planned to take TMC leaders into “preventive custody” ahead of the elections, Banerjee said, “That would be illegal detention. None should go to police stations on getting such calls and sit tight till the voting exercise gets over. No one can take your right to exercise the franchise.”
The CM claimed on Saturday that she has come to know from WhatsApp chats between EC observers and top officials, including police superintendents and district magistrates, that instructions have been given for detainment of TMC workers ahead of the voting exercise.
Continuing her tirade against the poll panel, she said, “Police superintendents and district magistrates have been changed arbitrarily at the last minute to help the BJP. We will move the Supreme Court to ensure polls in future are conducted in a more democratic manner. I have already spoken to several senior lawyers.”
Banerjee, during her address, asked those present at the venue to leave the doors of the auditorium ajar for better air circulation and said that she was “forced” to organise such meetings in enclosed spaces as EC diktats left her with no other option.
“We had asked the poll panel to club the last few phases, but it did not pay heed. I know the BJP has made specific plans to rig the election in every phase. In the sixth phase, BJP-sheltered goons from other areas accompanied central forces to residences of our workers in Naihati, Bhatpara, Jagaddal in North 24 Parganas. In the next phase, they are trying to terrorise our people in Paschim Bardhaman.”
Wondering “why the police fall silent when EC takes charge during polls,” she asked all officers to perform their job without any bias.
Claiming that “cash flow from BJP camps to buy votes was comparable to water flowing from fire brigade hose pipe”, the TMC boss iterated that the saffron party-led central government should have instead borne the cost of the COVID-19 vaccines being provided to people. The CM further said that her government has set up 100 COVID-19 treatment units in state-aided and private hospitals across Bengal over the past week.
“If you (BJP leaders) have such great love for Bengal, why are you not sending us more vaccines? Why is that truckloads of vaccines are being transported to Gujarat? I have nothing against Gujarat, but what about other states? You are discriminating against Bengal and giving lectures at election meetings,” she said.
She said Bengal, with a population of around 10 crores, has received three lakh vials so far, which could cater to just about 1.5 lakh people, as each of them need two doses. “We have, however, managed to vaccinate one crore people and have sought another one crore (from the Centre). We will provide vaccines for free from May 5 to anyone who is 18 years of age or above,” Banerjee added.