West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that she will not attend Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony citing media reports on BJP raising the issue of political violence in the state.
Banerjee, the chief of Trinamool Congress (TMC), was slated to arrive in New Delhi today to attend the oath ceremony which is scheduled to be held on Thursday at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
In a statement, Banerjee rejected outright the BJP’s charge that 54 people were killed in political violence in the state.
“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 one hour, I am seeing media reports that the BJP are claiming 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal. This is completely untrue,” the statement, which was shared by the Bengal CM on social media, said.
The TMC chief claimed that there have been “no political murders in Bengal”, adding that all the killings were either “family quarrels” or “other disputes”.
“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,” Banerjee said.
“So, I am sorry, Narendra Modi Ji, this has compelled me 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,” the statement read.
Political violence in West Bengal was witnessed in every phase of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections 2019. Several BJP leaders, workers and candidates were attacked allegedly by TMC activists. BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow, too, was attacked allegedly by TMC activists at College Street.
Similar violence was also witnessed in Panchayat elections.
Banerjee’s sudden U-turn came as at least 50 family members of slain BJP activists in West Bengal were invited to attend Modi’s swearing-in. The family members are scheduled to leave for New Delhi later today from Kolkata.
Among them are the relatives of three BJP activists – Sishupal Sahish, Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar – who were killed and hanged from tress in Bengal’s Purulia district.
Banerjee’s decision came a day after two MLAs and around 50 councillors of the TMC joined the BJP at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
During the Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi and BJP president Amit Shah repeatedly highlighted the issue of violence directed at the party in West Bengal.
The BJP won 303 seats on its own in the Lok Sabha elections, and in West Bengal it took its tally to 18 from two in 2014 which, reportedly, rattled Banerjee.