Kolkata: Against the backdrop of chants of “Lal Salaam” and “Congress Zindabad” on Wednesday, CPI-M veteran and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi both shared the stage, calling for the ouster of the ‘undemocratic’ Mamata Banerjee government to save the state.
With just three days to go for the all important fifth phase of the assembly polls, an impressive turnout at the Park Circus ground witnessed the rare camaraderie between the duo as they castigated the Trinamool Congress government over a host of issues and affirmed that the Congress-Left Front alliance will come to power.
The ailing Bhattacharjee, who has largely kept away from the heat and dust of the campaign, started off his first full-length speech at an open rally for the ongoing assembly polls by addressing the Congress leader as “Dear Rahul Gandhi” and described the meet as “rare” in the country’s political history.
“You can very well understand the significance of this meet. Kolkata has not witnessed this before. This is rare in the country’s political history,” said Bhattacharjee who for the first time shared the stage with Congress leaders at a public meeting. “There are many here who are Left supporters and they are many who are Congress supporters, but now we all have united,” said Bhattacharjee addressing the gathering.
“There are Left and Congress leaders on the dais. Why have we assembled? We are here because there is a grave danger before us. The Trinamool government is a terrible government. This government is destroying Bengal,” said Bhattacharjee, who along with Gandhi, was felicitated with a giant floral garland amid loud cheers and claps.
Present at the meet were state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, former union minister from the Congress Deepa Dasmunshi, Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya and CPI-M leader Shatarup Ghosh among others.
At the outset, Chowdhury felicitated Bhattacharjee with a tricolour ‘uttarya’ (scarf) as the entire ground reverberated with simultaneous chants of the Communists’ “Lal Salaam” and “Congress Zindabad”.
Hundreds of red flags fluttered alongside the tricoloured ones of the Congress. Bhattacharjee and Gandhi seemed in great spirits, smiling and chatting with each other.
“To save Bengal… we have to unite, and that is why we have united here,” said Bhattacharjee. Lambasting the Banerjee government for “reducing the economy of the state into tatters” and “unleashing a reign of terror”, Bhattacharjee gave a call, “Drive away Mamata, save Bengal”.
Buddhadeb also invoked Rahul Gandhi’s father, the late former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. “We established the panchayati raj system here. Rajiv Gandhi had lent us support on this. The Trinamool has destroyed the panchayats. We have to get the rural bodies active again,” said Bhattacharjee.
“There is anarchy everywhere. This government has to be removed,” he said. “From the media to even the judges, they (Trinamool) are terrorising everybody. Everything has been lost under their terror,” he said.
Giving the call to drive away the Trinamool and the BJP, Bhattacharjee said the Left-Congress alliance will emerge triumphant. “We know how to fight; we know we can do it. We have to defeat the Trinamool and we have to defeat the BJP. There is no place for BJP in Bengal,” added the Marxist veteran.
Launching a simultaneous attack on Prime Minster Narendra Modi and Banerjee, Gandhi accused the duo of being “anti-poor”. “Modi talks about farmers but can’t hear their cries. He goes to foreign countries but cannot go to Vidarbha (Maharashtra) and other places where farmers are committing suicide. He cannot go to the drought-hit areas of the country,” said Gandhi.
Raising the multi-crore-rupee Saradha scam, the Narada sting operation and the recent flyover collapse in Kolkata which claimed 26 lives, Gandhi lashed out at Banerjee. Promising it will work for the development of Bengal, Gandhi, echoing Bhattacharjee, said the Congress-Left alliance was going to win the assembly polls.
“The alliance is winning… it will win. Stand on the roads, don’t look back. Show this undemocratic Trinamool what Congress and Left workers can do,” exhorted Gandhi.
The Bhattacharjee-Gandhi bonhomie, however, came for a sharp ridicule from BJP chief Amit Shah who addressed successive poll rallies in the state. “It’s hard to tell what kind of alliance it is. They are fighting in Kerala but here it’s ILU ILU,” said AMit Shah, using the Bollywood-inspired initials for “I Love You”.