Mamata flays Modi govt for not inviting her to meet Hasina
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has come down heavily on the federal government for "not inviting" her to meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the latter's four-day state visit to India. "I share an excellent relationship with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, but (the Indian government) did not invite me to be a part of her visit,” Mamata said, addressing her supporters at a meeting of the state's Trinamool Congress in Kolkata on Thursday. “I don’t want to talk about external affairs or bilateral ties. But, I have noticed that the Centre (the federal government) tries to stop me whenever I am invited to any foreign country. I want to know why is the Union government so worried about me meeting foreign dignitaries,” Manata said. Read: Mamata sacks tainted Bengal Minister over school jobs scam Hasina wrapped up her state visit to India on Thursday, with a visit to the Dargah of the revered Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in the town of Ajmer, some 350kms from the national capital. The Bangladesh PM had also regretted not having met Mamata during her India visit. "Mamata is like my sister. I can meet her whenever I want. We always have a good relationship," she told the media at a dinner reception in Bangladesh High Commission.
Mamata sacks tainted Bengal Minister over school jobs scam
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday sacked one of her senior ministers from her Cabinet as well as from all posts of her ruling Trinamool Congress party, days after he was arrested in a school jobs scam. Partha Chatterjee held the portfolios of Commerce and Industry, IT and electronics, and Industrial Reconstruction in the state Cabinet. He was also the ruling Trinamool Congress party's general secretary. "I have removed Partha Chatterjee as a minister. My party takes strict action. There are many plannings behind it but I don't want to go into details,” the Bengal Chief Minister told the media after a Cabinet meeting at the Bengal secretariat. Also read: Mamata, Modi on the same page on Ukraine crisis Trinamool's disciplinary committee, headed by its second-in-command and Mamata's nephew Abhishek, subsequently announced Chatterjee's removal from all party posts. Earlier in the day, the party's spokesperson tweeted to demand strict action against the disgraced minister. "Chatterjee should be removed from ministry and all party posts immediately. He should be expelled." The 69-year-old was taken into custody by India's anti-money laundering probe agency, on Saturday, following hours of questioning for his alleged involvement in school teachers' recruitment scam. Also read: Bengal CM Mamata reinstates nephew as Trinamool general secretary Subsequent raids on multiple flats of Chatterjee's aide Arpita, a small-time actor, helped the Enforcement Directorate seize Rs 50 crore in cash. Chatterjee is said to have taken money for doing out teaching jobs when he was the Education Minister.
Tipu Munshi meets West Bengal CM Mamata in Kolkata
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi met Chief Minister (CM) of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Tuesday and discussed the issues of common interest in the area of trade and investment. The Commerce Minister is leading the Bangladesh delegation to two-day business event ‘Bengal Global Business Summit’ that started on Wednesday, said a press release. At the bilateral meeting on Tuesday, both the Commerce Minister of Bangladesh and the Chief Minister of West Bengal agreed that closer collaboration will be mutually beneficial for business sectors of both Bangladesh and India, particularly West Bengal. Issues like the need of improving infrastructure at the border for trade facilitation, working together for investment in jute and leather sectors, as well as the possibility of establishing border haats came up during the meeting. READ: Bangladesh keen to sign FTA with South Korea, Tipu Munshi tells Ambassador Earlier, Tipu Munshi and Mamata Banerjee recalled the close and warm relationship between the peoples of Bangladesh and West Bengal. The Commerce Minister referred to the whole hearted support of the people of West Bengal in 1971 during the great war of liberation. Tipu Munshi is also expected to visit Mizoram at the invitation of the Minister of Industries of Mizoram during his trip to India.
Mamata re-elected Trinamool Congress chief
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was on Wednesday re-elected as the chairperson of her ruling Trinamool Congress party unopposed, 10 months after single-handedly pulling off a landslide victory in last year's assembly election. Addressing party workers at the Trinamool Congress headquarters in state capital Kolkata, she stressed on the need for defeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the next general elections. Terming the BJP as her “main enemy”, Mamata said, "We want all the parties against the BJP to come together but if someone does not listen to us, stands away with their arrogance, then, in the words of Gurudev RabindranathTagore, we will walk alone." READ: Mamata in the dock for 'disrespecting' national anthem On May 2 last year, Mamata scripted history by winning the assembly election for the third time in a row, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from the BJP. Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile assembly polls last year. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after nearly 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule. READ: Mamata blocks Bengal Governor on Twitter
Mamata in the dock for 'disrespecting' national anthem
A court in the western Indian city of Mumbai on Wednesday summoned Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on March 2 in a case of alleged disrespect to the national anthem during her visit to the financial capital in December. The summons came in the wake of a petition filed by a local leader of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party alleging that Mamata did not stand up when the country's national anthem was played at an event she was attending in Mumbai. The court said that it found prima-facie evidence against Mamata and made it clear that she could be summoned "without any sanction" as she was not attending the event as the Chief Minister but as the head of Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress. "Though the accused is the chief minister of West Bengal, she was not discharging her official duties (during the event in Mumbai). Therefore, a sanction is not required and there is no bar to proceed against the accused," the judge said. READ: Mamata blocks Bengal Governor on Twitter Jana Gana Mana is the national anthem of India, originally composed as Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata in Bengali by polymath Rabindranath Tagore. If found guilty under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, Mamata faces a jail term of up to three years. The Bengal Chief Minister did not comment on the summons. READ: Mamata thanks Momen, highlights Bengal's proximity to Bangladesh
Mamata blocks Bengal Governor on Twitter
West Bengal's firebrand Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar have clashed once again, this time over the latter's "the state is turning into a gas chamber of democracy" remark. On Monday, Mamata blocked the Governor from her microblogging platform Twitter's handle, claiming she was "getting irritated" by Dhankhar's repeated "unconstitutional" and "unethical" comments. "He (Jagdeep Dhankhar) tweets something every day abusing me or my officers. Says unconstitutional, unethical things. He instructs not advises. Treats an elected government like bonded labour. That's why I have blocked him from my Twitter account," Mamata told the media in capital Kolkata. The state's top constitutional figure -- appointed by the federal government -- and the head of the Bengal government have been at loggerheads on several occasions over political and governance issues in the past three years. READ: Mamata thanks Momen, highlights Bengal's proximity to Bangladesh Earlier too, the state had witnessed ugly spats between the two, with Mamata accusing the Governor of "attempting to destabilise the elected government" of her ruling Trinamool Congress party at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In May last year, Mamata single-handedly pulled off a landslide victory in the state election for the third time in a row, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP. READ: Momen greets Mamata; hopes to have closer ties with WB
Mamata to kickstart campaign for Bengal bypoll today
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is all set to formally kickstart her campaign for the upcoming by-election in the eastern Indian state on Wednesday. Mamata is contesting the crucial bypoll -- slated for September 30 -- from the assembly constituency of Bhawanipur in south Kolkata. To continue as Bengal CM, the 66-year-old has to pull off a win. Though her Trinamool Congress party swept back to power in May's assembly polls, Mamata lost her own seat in Nandigram to her protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari by around 2,000 votes. She has, however, challenged Suvendu's election in the Kolkata high court. India's main opposition Congress has meanwhile, decided not to field any candidate against Mamata. Also read: Mamata Banerjee sworn in as Bengal CM "The Congress feels that by fielding a candidate against the Chief Minister, it may indirectly help the BJP in some way and the high command does not want to do that," West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told the media. On May 2, Mamata single-handedly pulled off a landslide victory in the assembly election for the third time in a row, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP. In June, Mamata moved the high court to declare Suvendu's election win null and void on the grounds that he had indulged in corrupt practices and sought votes on the basis of religion. "Suvendu Adhikari has indulged in several corrupt practices that have enhanced his winning chances and materially altered Mamata Banerjee's chances of success in the election," her petition read. Also read: Bucking anti-incumbency, Mamata scores a hat-trick in Bengal In her petition, Mamata also alleged discrepancies in the counting of votes, Mamata's lawyer had said. West Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after nearly 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.
Mamata's election case: High Court asks top poll panel to preserve voting machines
A higher court in the eastern city of Kolkata on Wednesday ordered India's top poll panel to preserve all voting machines in an election petition filed by Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over her defeat in May's assembly polls. The Kolkata High Court also issued a notice to Bengal's main opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the case lodged by Mamata challenging the election of her former protege-turned-rival from Nandigram in the assembly polls. "Justice Shampa Sarkar asked the Election Commission of India to preserve all records, and devices, such as electronic voting machines and video recordings, apart from issuing the notice to Suvendu," Mamata's lawyer Sanjay Basu told the media. Justice Sarkar took over the case from another judge against whom the Bengal Chief Minister had levelled allegations of "conflict of interest" in the wake of his alleged links with India's ruling BJP. But before quitting the case, Justice Kaushik Chanda had imposed a fine of 5 lakh rupees (7,000 USD) on Mamata for her "preplanned move to malign a judge". READ: Mamata thanks Sheikh Hasina for gift of mangoes On May 2, Mamata single-handedly pulled off a landslide victory in the assembly election for the third time in a row, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP. Though her Trinamool Congress party swept back to power with a resounding majority, Mamata lost her own seat in Nandigram to BJP's star campaigner Suvendu by a thin margin of 2,000 votes. Last month, Mamata moved the high court to declare Suvendu's election win null and void on the grounds that he had indulged in corrupt practices and sought votes on the basis of religion. "Suvendu Adhikari has indulged in several corrupt practices that have enhanced his winning chances and materially altered Mamata Banerjee's chances of success in the election," her petition read. In her petition, Mamata also alleged discrepancies in the counting of votes, Mamata's lawyer had said. Though Mamata had conceded defeat to Suvendu in Nandigram -- the potboiler of the assembly election in Bengal -- the Trinamool supremo said on the counting day only that she would challenge the result in a court of law. "I will move the court against Suvendu's win," she had said. READ: Mamata Banerjee fined Rs 5 lakh for 'maligning judge' West Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after nearly 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.
Game over: How an injured Mamata won against a fully fit saffron squad
If only veteran politician Shamim Osman knew that his famous 'Khela Hobe'(Game on!) speech would turn out to be one of the main slogans of Trinamool Congress in the recently concluded West Bengal elections, he surely would have made a patent for it. Prashant Kishor, the political strategist considered as the brain behind TMC's landslide victory in the assembly election, explained the significance of the 'Khela Hobe' slogan several times while talking to the Indian media. According to him, 'Khela hobe' delivered a message to the voters that TMC will fight till the very end. "During elections, BJP created such a psychological fear that there is no chance for the other party. Amit Shah comes to Bengal and says that Didi(Mamata Banerjee) is done, she is all alone. This psychological pressure forces the opponents to give up. Hence the 'Game on' slogan. It means we will fight till the very end," he said in an interview with India Today back in March. An intense matchup did take place, staggered out over eight legs, and Mamata played till the very end, with an injured left foot and won decisively against a fully fit BJP squad, led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah - who each held over 50 rallies in the state - and propped up by the likes of Yogi Adityanath. BJP has a very clear strategy when it comes to winning elections. They challenge an incumbent government, strengthen their local organisation by poaching politicians from the local parties and through party booth committees and the work of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), present Narendra Modi as the only leader committed to the state’s interests, promise a web of welfare schemes and push a very aggressive Hindu nationalist ideology in the state in a bid to polarise and consolidate the Hindu vote. Despite doing it all in Bengal, the saffron camp failed to conquer their final frontier after locking horns with the charismatic Mamata Banerjee. 'Didi', as Banerjee is affectionately known, stood her ground against a BJP machine which had everything, money, muscle power, the media and some would say even the Election Commission. Shah, the architect behind the BJP's electoral juggernaut witnessed since 2014, was constantly predicting the kind of overwhelming victory that in the end TMC pulled off. The Trinamool Congress ended up winning 48% of the vote and 73% of seats, its best performance ever on both counts. Not bad for a party said to be suffering anti-incumbency! In this piece, we will try to look at the some factors which contributed to the win. Also read: Mamata Banerjee sworn in as Bengal CM Bengali nationalism: From Didi to Banglar Meye Any specific ideological core was more or less absent from Trinamool Congress since its inception. But they had to resort to something to combat BJP's Hindu nationalism. Thus, they went for Bengali nationalism, which was probably the most obvious choice. They portrayed themselves as local heroes up against bohiragotos(literally outsiders) and Borgis (Maratha raiders who led a destructive invasion of Bengal in the 18th century). To take matters further, Mamata Banerjee, who was always known as Didi (Sister) and still is by the people of Bengal, was also rebranded as 'Banglar Meye' (Daughter of Bengal). During campaigning, Trinamool launched the slogan — “Bangla nijer meye ke chay (Bengal wants its own daughter)” as a part of this. Talking to UNB, Papia Sen, professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: "Although the rebranding of Mamata Banerjee was not the main reason behind TMC's success, it was certainly an effective tactic against the Hindutva stance of BJP." According to Prof Sen, it "evoked Bengal's natural sentiments for their daughters and added a household touch" to Banerjee. Women Voters According to Papia Sen, the real vote bank for TMC is not Muslims or minorities, but rather women. "Over the years, Mamata has undertaken a series of welfare policies which led to direct flow of cash into the hands of women. In return, the women of West Bengal have always remained loyal to her," she said. TMC ensured regular cash transfers to girls if they do not get married and remain in school. Papia Sen also said that she believes that the women of Bengal were emotionally moved when they saw their chief minister, a strong woman herself, was on the receiving end of "low-level bullying and taunting" by BJP leadership, including PM Narendra Modi. Modi publicly taunted Mamata by saying “Didi O Didi" in a tone likened to louts and punks by Mahua Moitra, a TMC politician. BJP’s West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh also offended traditional Bengali sensibilities when he commented on Mamata's hitched up saree (to accommodate the cast on her injured left foot), asking on national television why she can’t switch to sporting bermuda shorts instead of exposing her legs. Also read: Bucking anti-incumbency, Mamata scores a hat-trick in Bengal The taunting and bullying only moved more women votes towards TMC, according to experts including Papia Sen. Muslim Vote The so-called Muslim vote bank is always a huge factor in West Bengal as the Muslim share of the state's population is more than double the national average. "TMC government funded minority institutions including madrasas and brought it to the mainstream. They have also provided scholarships to the Muslim and Dalit students. All these contributed in Muslims relying on the TMC government yet again," said Papia Sen. "Besides the way BJP blamed TMC for pampering Muslims and pledged to change the status-quo once they come to power, forced Muslim voters across the state to perceive TMC as their only saviour. For this reason, Muslims who generally vote for Congress or Left, voted for TMC this year which played a major factor behind the election results." "See, Murshidabad and Malda are strongholds of the Congress and Lefts, so generally the left alliance relied on the Muslim vote banks of these two districts. But when the poll results came, it was seen that TMC sweeped these two districts which means that the Muslims were undividedly united behind TMC this time around. This proved to be a huge game changer," added Papia Sen. "Muslims were alarmed by BJP's promise of a communal citizenship test or National Register of Citizens and reflected it on the ballots," Papia remarked. 'No to BJP' campaign A section of ‘civil society’ came out with a campaign called "No vote to BJP” at every corner of the state in an attempt to unite all voters against the party. The activists, more or less consisting of people from Liberal Left backgrounds, were never huge fans of TMC or Mamata Banerjee in the first place. But despite the 'No Vote to BJP' campaign not explicitly mentioning which party to vote for, it was perceived as a call on voters to unite behind TMC against a communal BJP. The defensive attitude of the Left-Congress Alliance against this campaign only made this perception stronger. Even leaders of the recent farmer protests in Delhi came to West Bengal and participated in this campaign. The leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha led by Rakesh Tikait and social activist Medha Patkar held rallies in Nandigram, Singur and Kolkata urging people not to vote for the BJP. The prominent names of Bengal’s television and film industry including singer-songwriter Anupam Roy, Anindya Chattopadhyay, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Anirban Bhattacharya and many more came up with a six-minute video song titled ‘Nijerder Motey, Nijeder Gaan’ with a message to the voters emphasising diversity and West Bengal's tradition of non-communal politics, setting it in contrast with BJP's unabashedly communal pitch. Professor Sen has recognised the impact of this campaign behind the landslide victory of TMC. "After 2011, the civil society distanced themselves from Mamata and TMC. But this time, the Civil Society and the Liberal Left were in a united front to stop BJP from coming to power at any cost," Papia Sen said. Welfare schemes The role of all the welfare schemes of TMC government behind their landslide victory has been getting inadequate attention. Mamata's government has adopted a slew of welfare policies tackling every major aspect of life including food, shelter, education and health in Bengal, with some of the major ones started in the wake of the health and economic crisis due to the ongoing pandemic. Also read: Will work together to overcome Covid crisis: Hasina to Mamata She has schemes targeting women empowerment such as, Rupashree and Kanyashree that support them with grants for education and marriage, allowances for elderly people and social security measures for the struggling farmers and the unemployed youth. According to Professor Sen, "The welfare schemes of Mamata Banerjee are one of the bigger factors if not the biggest driving votes to the Trinamool." "As the BJP rose to prominence in the state threatening Mamata’s position since 2019, she has increased the magnitude and reach of her welfare schemes to galvanise the support of both the urban and rural poor, which constitutes most of the state’s voters. Delivering on these schemes, which have improved the lives of the poor and middle class have been very crucial behind TMC's success," she added. Mamata for PM in 2024? "Today Bengal saved India. This is not only a victory of the Bengali people, this is a victory of all India." This is what Mamata Banerjee said in her immediate reaction after TMC's landslide victory. According to many political experts this statement reflected her ambitions of becoming the face of the opposition in the 2024 central election. The way Modi magic and the mighty 'Modi-Amit Shah' duo crumbled upon Mamata's charisma, it won't be a far fetched idea to consider Mamata Banerjee as an important figure in the upcoming 2024 national polls. Besides, Congress's poor performance in Assam and falling behind DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Left in Kerala mean that Rahul Gandhi cannot be perceived as the main opposition leader at a national level. Professor Sen said regarding this, "Although I am not sure whether she (Mamata) will be the main face of opposition in 2024, as it is related with many factors including a Congress buy-in, I am sure that she will play an instrumental role in uniting the opposition alliance against Modi." "Moreover Mamata is a strong leader who unites people. So personally, I won't be surprised if she ends up being the main threat against the politics of division of BJP," Prof Sen said. She also added that the strong image of Mamata can be effective against the Hindutva narrative of BJP as people can associate her with female goddesses, including Durga. What the result means for Bangladesh While many Bangladeshis expressed their emotions in social media or local tea stalls, celebrating the victory of Mamata Banerjee as their own, some didn’t shy away from identifying her as the main obstacle of the Teesta River treaty, something which holds great importance to the people of north Bengal in Bangladesh. In short it can be said that there was a huge interest among the Bangladeshis regarding the West Bengal State Elections. UNB talked with Tanvir Habib Jewel, Lecturer at the Department of International Relations at Bangladesh University of Professionals, on what the election result means for people across the border. When asked about the future of Teesta treaty, he said, "TMC will continue leveraging the sentiment of the West Bengal people to deny Bangladesh the waters of Teesta. Besides considering the fact that the relationship between their State and Central government is at an all time low, I don't see the treaty happening in the near future." Despite a grand reception of Modi in his recent Bangladesh visit, top BJP leadership have not stopped passing demeaning statements about Bangladeshi immigrants. On April 13, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that Bangladeshis “infiltrate” into India because they don’t get food back home. Further back on April 11, 2019, referring to illegal migrants from Bangladesh as “termites,” Shah said the BJP would throw them out after coming to power in nationwide elections that year. So when asked about what would have happened if BJP won, Jewel said, "A BJP government in West Bengal would have increased the risk of communal violence in the state due to the party's aggressive Hindu Nationalist stance. The status quo would have created a precarious situation for Bangladesh as the communal tensions would definitely have a spillover effect across the borders." "Besides the addition of the BJP government in Bengal along with Assam and Tripua would have surrounded Bangladesh with their ideologies. This would have encouraged the communal forces within our country and we have seen how violent they can turn out to be," he added. Jewel also believes that BJP would have tried their very best to implement the controversial National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act, to "justify their stance on so called illegal immigrants." "They have already deregistered two million people in Assam. Now of people were delisted in West Bengal there would have been major problems for Bangladesh as a large number of people had migrated to the neighbouring country after 1947 and 1971," he concluded.
Mamata compensates kin of Bengal post-poll violence victims
A day after she was sworn in as the chief minister of West Bengal for the third time, Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced a compensation of Rs two lakh each for the families of 16 people killed in post-poll violence in the eastern Indian state. The firebrand woman politician also promised to give a government job to one family member each of all the five people killed in firing by federal security forces on agitated residents in Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi area during polling last month. "At least 16 persons -- mostly from the BJP and the Trinamool -- died in post-poll violence. We will pay a compensation of Rs two lakh to their family members. Our government will also provide jobs of home guard to one family member each of all the Sitalkuchi victims," Mamata said in Kolkata. Also read: FM Momen greets Mamata; hopeful of resolving outstanding issues UNB had earlier reported about the deaths in post-poll violence in West Bengal, which also prompted the Indian Home Ministry to seek a report from the state administration. Appealing for calm, Mamata told her supporters on Tuesday not to indulge in any violence. "Bengal is a peace-loving place. During the elections, there has been some heat and dust and calm. The BJP did a lot of torture. But I appeal to all for calm." Bucking anti-incumbency, Mamata scripted history on Sunday by single handedly pulling off an astounding victory in the assembly election. She not only staved off a massive challenge from India's ruling BJP but also decimated the Left Front. Also read: Mamata Banerjee sworn in as Bengal CM Though her party swept back to power with a resounding majority of 213 seats in the 292-member assembly, the 66-year-old lost her own seat in Nandigram to her former protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari by a thin margin of around 2,000 votes. West Bengal witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.