Raising concerns over the fate of the country’s federal structure, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday alleged that the BJP was spending crores of rupees to topple the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra and lashed out at the BJP-led Center over the arrests of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair and social activist Teesta Setalvad for trying to “expose the truth”.
“The BJP has no other work than spending crores of rupees to topple the government in Maharashtra. Here we take action against panchayat leaders who take money. But in Maharashtra, MLAs are being bought with crores of rupees to change people’s mandate,” she said slamming the BJP for “engaging in horse-trading to topple the government in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra is embroiled in political turmoil, with several rebel MLAs of the ruling Shiv Sena camping in Assam, in what seems to be a bid to topple the MVA coalition government in the state. The CM maintained that the BJP-led government is “using” its agencies against opposition parties.
“The BJP is doing whatever suits them. It is using central agencies like CBI and the ED against those who are speaking the truth,” she said.
The BJP did not immediately react to Mamata’s claims.
Addressing her first rally in Asansol in West Burdwan district after the party’s victory in the Lok Sabha bypoll in April this year, Banerjee without taking Sharma’s name, said: “When your party leaders hurt religious sentiments by making derogatory remarks, they are not arrested. You (BJP) remain silent. Why have you arrested Mohammed Zubair and Teesta Setalvad? What wrong have they done? The entire world is condemning it. Does speaking out the truth or exposing the truth a crime? Those who are speaking out against this government are either harassed by using agencies or are arrested.”
The Chief Minister’sremarks came days after the arrest of Setalvad and a day after the arrest of Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews.
In an apparent reference to controversial remarks by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on the Prophet, the Chief Minister alleged that those who spread hatred and violence in the country are not being arrested.
“I don’t want to take anyone’s name but those who spread hatred and violence in the country and insult religion are not being arrested and no action is being taken. Those who create animosity among communities are not even touched. Instead, they are well taken care of and given security. But my government has summoned such people and we will not spare them,” said Banerjee.
The Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad had on Saturday picked up Setalvad from her Mumbai home. She was later taken to Ahmedabad and handed over to the crime branch there.
A court in Ahmedabad on Sunday remanded Setalvad in the police custody till July 2 in the case of fabricating evidence to frame innocent persons in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots.
On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed a challenging appeal the clean chit given by a special investigation team (SIT) to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 post-Godhra riots cases.
Setalvad and her NGO were co-petitioners with Zakia Jafri (wife of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the riots) in the plea filed against Modi and others in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, a cyber unit of the Delhi Police on Monday arrested Mohammed Zubair on the charges of allegedly hurting religious sentiments following a complaint by a social media user who referred to a tweet from 2018. The police said that they filed an FIR against Zubair in connection with the complaint under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 295-A (malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings). They said he was remanded in police custody for a day and will be produced in the court for a bail hearing after Tuesday. Meanwhile, speaking on the Center’s Agnipath recruitment scheme, Banerjee said the Center must extend the retirement age of soldiers recruited under it to 60 years, claiming that they would stare at an uncertain future after the end of their four-year contract.
“Recently I received a communication where I was requested that after four years, Agniveers should get the opportunity in the state government’s jobs. It is a mess created by the Center and they have to clean it. We will not clean the mess created by the Center,” she said.
Meanwhile, some candidates, who had cleared the State Level Selection Test (SLST) and did not get jobs, held placards and posters at the public meeting in a bid to draw Banerjee’s attention. The police soon stopped the protesters from showing the placards and later removed them from the venue.
Addressing the protesters from the dais, Banerjee said, “Yesterday, I held a talk with some of you (another group of candidates who showed up in her public meeting). The matter is in the court now. I would request you to go to court. Every day this (protest) is being staged. The CPM and BJP are behind this. The court has directed to stop the appointments of so many people. I will abide by the court order. It has stopped the appointment process, and therefore, I cannot do anything. You moved the court and that’s why it happened. Now, talk to your lawyers. We have 17,000 vacant posts for teachers. We have also created 5,000 more jobs. But, I cannot do anything now as the matter is in the court.”
Hitting out at a section of media for “spreading canards against opposition parties”, the TMC supremo said the media should start talking about the money that PM Cares received.
“The media only wants to talk about ‘cut money’ in Bengal, but what about the money that was donated to the PM Cares
Fund? No one dares to question it. If there is a small incident in Bengal, the media starts raising hues and cries without even bothering to cross-check facts. Why shouldn’t action be taken against false news?” she
Banerjee urged party workers to gear up for the upcoming Martyrs’ Day rally on July 21 in the state, being held in a grand manner after a gap of two years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic “For the last two years, we could not hold the July 21 rally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we will make it a grand success. On that day, we will also announce new programs,” she added.
—WITH PTI INPUTS