West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday refused to politicize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to light lamps on April 5, saying that it was a “personal decision” and “she would sleep if she felt like it.”
She said that those who believe in the PM’s message can follow his instructions.
“The prime minister will speak his mind and I will speak mine. I cannot interfere in someone else’s matter…. If you think that the prime minister has said something good, follow it…it is a personal decision,” Mamata said.
“Why should I interfere in other people’s matters? Should I tackle coronavirus, or you want a political war to break out? Please don’t ignite a political battle. If you feel what the Prime Minister has said is good, you abide by that. If I feel, I will sleep, I will do that. It is a personal matter,” she said while responding to a query on the issue and asked media persons not to ignite a political battle amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
In a morning video message to the nation, Modi urged citizens to light a candle or a diya on April 5 at 9 p.m. for nine minutes to dispel the darkness and gloom brought by the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus.
“This Sunday, April 5, we have to challenge the Covid-19 pandemic, we have to introduce it to the power of light.
“We have to take the Mahasankalp (strong determination) of 130 crore citizens to new heights. I ask for your nine minutes at 9 p.m. on April 5,” Modi said.
He then asked the citizens to switch off the lights at their homes, reach out from their windows, gates or balconies and light a candle or diya for nine minutes. Even torches and mobile phone flash lights would do, he said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said West Bengal has already run into losses worth thousands of crores of rupees due to the ongoing lockdown but asserted that she took pride in the fact that her government still managed to credit the salaries of employees on time.
She said the state government has disbursed an amount of Rs 35,10,200 towards social pension for a period of two months.
“Do you have any idea how much we have lost in these few days of lockdown? Several thousand crores…. We have no earning, but only burning,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.
“Ours is the only government which has paid salaries on the first day of the month. What will they (employees) eat otherwise?” she said.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo said there are many states, which do not owe a heavy debt to the Centre like West Bengal, but have emptied their treasuries during the lockdown.
“There are many states that do not need to repay a debt of Rs 50,000 crore like us, yet their treasuries are empty. There are several states who could not pay the full salary to employees…a few paid only 40 per cent…I can take pride in it that we could,” she said.
She also rubbished reports that the lockdown was being violated in Kolkata and certain rural areas of the state.
Without taking the name of any political party, the chief minister said there are a few who are trying to “play politics” with the distribution of rice, wheat and pulses through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
“They are claiming that the Centre has provided the rice…but how can that be possible…the PDS is run by the state government,” she said.
In response to Mamata’s remarks, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said the situation is indicative of the chief minister being asleep, and she may continue in that state at 9 pm on April 5 when the entire country would be awake.
Ghosh pointed out that the Trinamool leaders had also criticised the Prime Minister when he asked people to clap on March 22 in solidarity with all those in the frontline of the fight against the disease, but the country did not pay heed to their objections.
“The situation in the country is indicative to all that the chief minister is sleeping. She can continue to sleep more at 9 pm on Sunday. But the whole country will be awake,” he said.
Earlier, the opposition including the Congress and Shiv Sena had also criticized PM Modi’s call to “dispel the darkness of Coronavirus” by lighting lamps at 9 pm on April 5.
The Congress had said the PM’s address was just empty symbolism and disappointing.
Taking a jibe at the Prime Minister, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said he hopes that “people don’t burn down their own homes”.