By Santanu Chowdhury
Days after her party took a knocking in the Lok Sabha elections, TMC leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, now grappling with a crisis in state hospitals following a strike by junior doctors, played the Bengali card Friday for the first time, saying those living in the state will have to learn to speak Bengali, and that non-Bengalis will have to face consequences if they continue to target Bengali-speaking people.
“We have to bring Bengal forward. When I go to Bihar, UP, Punjab, I speak in their language. If someone is living in Bengal, he or she has to learn Bengali,” Banerjee told TMC workers at Kanchrapara in North 24 Parganas district.
Alleging that the BJP was responsible for spreading violence in West Bengal, the Chief Minister said there is no place for hooliganism here.
“I will not tolerate criminals who stay in Bengal and roam around on bikes. Police will take action against them. If non-Bengalis continue to target Bengali-speaking people, then will people of Bengal keep quiet? We don’t want to drive out people from here like Biharis were driven out from Maharashtra and Gujarat. But how long will they tolerate if you will live in Bengal and scare Bengalis? I will not tolerate this,” she said.
“The BJP is targeting Bengalis and minorities. They are trying to create an atmosphere of communal tension by spreading the venom of religious fundamentalism. They are instigating post-poll violence in the state. They were trying to create differences between Rajbongshis and Bengalis, Gorkhas and Bengalis and were also instigating Biharis and people from UP who live in the state,” she said.
Other parties, she said, will not gain by abusing her. “You will not gain anything by abusing me. The more you abuse me, the more seats we will win. It is easier to hurl abuses at Mamata Banerjee because she is not a daughter of a crorepati,” she said.
Alleging that EVMs in the Lok Sabha elections were “programmed”, she reiterated that ballot papers should be brought back. “Just because they (BJP) won a few seats by programming the EVMs, it doesn’t mean that they can beat up Bengalis and minorities. We will not tolerate this,” she said.