The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sharpened its attack on the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal over alleged comments of one of its leaders against the Scheduled Caste (SC) community ahead of the fifth phase of polling in the state on Saturday. Out of the 45 seats going to the polls in the fifth phase, 21 are reserved for SC and Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities.
West Bengal has India’s second-highest SC population after Uttar Pradesh. The SCs comprise 23.51% of the state’s population and the ST communities 5.8%. Of the state’s 84 seats reserved for SC and ST communities in the 294-member assembly, the BJP led in 46, the TMC in 37, and the Congress in one in the 2019 national polls.
BJP lawmaker Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato hit out at TMC’s Sujata Mondal for allegedly calling members of the SC community “beggars by nature” and chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her silence over the killing of an 18-year-old during the fourth phase of polling last Saturday. He added this has made clear the TMC’s stand on the SC community and will help the BJP.
Banerjee met the 18-year-old’s family as well as the kin of four others killed in two separate incidents of violence on Saturday last.
Mondal, a TMC candidate, last week allegedly said even though Banerjee worked for the SC community’s development, they were “selling themselves to BJP”. “Some are beggars by nature, while some are beggars because of poverty. The SC population, in this area [Arambagh in Hooghly], are beggars by nature,” Mondal allegedly told a local news channel.
Mondal said the BJP knows that they would not be unable to defeat her in Arambagh or Banerjee in West Bengal and have hence stooped to this level. “I proudly say that I come from an SC family. I have never insulted anyone. I was earlier with the BJP and have seen the party from inside. BJP leaders have no respect for SC members. Go and see how SC women are treated in [BJP-ruled] Uttar Pradesh.” Mondal accused the BJP’s IT cell of running propaganda against her.
Mahato’s said the BJP’s SC Morcha will lodge a complaint with the Election Commission against Mondol’s remarks. “We would also launch a campaign [titled] ‘no more injustice with the SC community’ on [BR] Ambedkar’s birth anniversary [on Wednesday],” said Mahato.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the TMC over the alleged abusive comments. “Didi’s [Banerjee] men are abusing the Scheduled Caste people. They are calling these SC people beggars. They have disrespected Baba Saheb Ambedkar before his birth anniversary. “
Modi questioned whether Banerjee has apologised.
Banerjee on Monday lased out Modi and accused him of telling lies. “He [Modi] is telling lies. I have not made a single statement against any community. Give a proof or else step down. You should not be Prime Minister. You are a liar. I have given citizenship to Matua [refugees from Bangladesh]. BJP did not give it. I have made Matua Board and Namashudra Board. Modi has done nothing. He is a liar Prime Minister.”
Modi visited the Dalit Matua community’s most sacred temple in Bangladesh last month and prompted Banerjee to allege he violated the election code of conduct by wooing a community.
The Matuas are part of the larger Dalit Namasudra community. Originally from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), most of the Namasudras came to India during the partition and after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.