Kolkata (West Bengal): A number of Opposition leaders flocked here on Monday to express solidarity with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as her dharna entered the second night, with her declaration that the protest will continue till February 8.
Mamata, who launched her dharna last night amidst the unprecedented face-off with the Centre over CBI versus state police issue, carried out her Chief Ministerial work from the makeshift canopy at Metro Channel.
Through the day, she met her ministers and officials, cleared files and honoured police personnel, in a virtual open house manner. She also addressed the gathering at regular intervals.
She launched her ‘Save the Constitution’ sit-in at around 9 pm on Sunday after the CBI attempted to arrest Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha chit fund case, which was foiled by the state police.
Clad in her trademark white sari and some warm clothing and with senior party leaders in attendance, the Trinamool Congress supremo sat under the canopy till around 2 am of Monday and then went off to sleep.
Towards the evening, Opposition leaders, including RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and DMK leader Kanimozhi came to the protest venue to express solidarity with her. They also used the forum to attack the central government.
“I am here to save the democracy. I laud Mamata didi’s bravery and thank her for taking this step in order to save our constitution. We have been saying time and again that our constitution is in danger,” said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Voicing her support, DMK leader Kanimozhi hailed Mamata Banerjee and attack PM-Modi led central government.
“They know that they are not going to win a single seat in West Bengal so this is pre-election gift from PM Modi to Mamata Banerjee. She has once again made sure that the country stops in its tracks, turns back and looks at her,” she said.
In the morning, Mamata addressed a gathering of party supporters, attacking the central Modi-led government, particularly on farmers’ issue, and declaring that West Bengal will not accept any funds from the Centre as part of any scheme.
She termed the interim budget as a “farce” and claimed that the schemes announced by the Centre will not be fulfilled as the Central government lacks the requisite funds.
She also accused the central government of “stealing” farmers’ rights.
“Modi government has taken away the rights of farmers. Over 12,000 farmers have committed suicide. Farmers’ lands have been snatched away,” Mamata said.
“Back in 2006, I had sat on a dharna for 27 days for the return of farmers’ land. Many farmer families are left with nothing. We are the only government which doesn’t allow farmers’ rights to be snatched away,” the West Bengal Chief Minister said.
She said her government has started ‘Krishi Bondhu’ scheme, as part of which farmers get Rs 5,000 per year. She said 30,000 cheques have already been given.
“Under the Bengal Fasal Bima Yojana, 80 per cent of the premium is given by the state government. We have Krishi Pension, under which farmers get Rs 1,000 per month. We are buying rice grains directly from farmers to give them the due benefits. We are also paying them in cheques to ensure no one dupes them,” the TMC chief added.
The BJP, while attacking the West Bengal Chief Minister, asked, “We want to ask Mamata Banerjee – why is she staging a dharna? Who does she want to shield? Police Commissioner (Rajeev Kumar) or herself?”
Terming last night’s incident as “murder of democracy”, Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said never before has a CBI investigating team been taken into custody by the state police.
“This is Mamata’s Emergency in Bengal. This is not ours, it’s Mamata,” he told a press conference here.
As the full-blown face-off escalated, several parties including the Congress, Samajwadi Party, TDP, DMK, JD(S), RJD, AAP, National Conference, PDP and Maharashtra Navnirman Party, extended support to her in her fight against the central NDA government.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke to her last night and told her “we stand shoulder to shoulder” with her.
“The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi & the BJP. The entire opposition will stand together & defeat these fascist forces,” Gandhi tweeted.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, expressing solidarity with Mamata, said on Monday that the success of the opposition rally in Kolkata last month has resulted in the BJP-led central government resorting to “revengeful actions” against Mamata.
“Everyone should condemn the incidents in West Bengal,” the TDP leader said.
JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “overacted by using the CBI”.
Meanwhile, the CBI, which suspects Kumar of having “destroyed” evidence in the chit fund scam, on Monday moved the Supreme Court to seek direction on how to act against Kumar, a senior IPS officer.
A full-blown face-off between Mamata Banerjee government and the Centre erupted on Sunday evening after a CBI team moved to arrest Kumar, but were instead detained themselves by the Kolkata police.
CBI’s interim chief Nageswara Rao, while speaking to ANI last night, alleged that the Kolkata Police Commissioner had hampered evidence in the chit fund scam and the CBI has evidence to prove the same.