Kolkata, Feb 5 ;
The BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi Wednesday lambasted any possible Third Front, but went soft on West Bengal chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in an apparent bid to keep open the doors on an alliance with the Trinamool Congress.
Launching the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lok Sabha campaign in the state at a rally in the Brigade Parade grounds here, Modi said West Bengal would benefit if people voted for the BJP in the general election while Banerjee continued to usher in development in the state.
He, however, also made a veiled criticism of the Banerjee regime by asking the people whether they have got the “Parivartan” (change) that was promised, and urged them to seek answers from the ruling party about its performance.
Urging the masses to elect BJP candidates on all 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, Modi said Bengal cannot reap the full benefits of governance if only the state government works.
“For working for Bengal, you need your government in Delhi too. Give us a chance to serve Bengal. I will work for the state’s development. It will be a double bonanza for you. Mamataji here, and me sitting in Delhi. You will have laddoos in both hands,” he told the rally.
The BJP, eyeing a return to power at the Centre after 10 years, is looking for partners to expand the National Democratic Alliance it leads, with opinion polls and surveys indicating a hung verdict in the general election.
Dismissing the Third Front as one that would make India “third grade”, Modi called upon people to reject the concept.
“The Third Front will make India third grade and we need to reject them forever. Those talking about the Third Front in Delhi should come here and see which way the wind is blowing,” he said.
Modi’s comments came on a day 14 non-Congress and non-BJP parties met in Delhi to give formal shape to a “third force” and formulate a common policy against the Congress and BJP.
The Left, who have a strong base in West Bengal, played a leading role in bringing together the parties.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also time and again favoured the formation of a federal front of regional parties as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP.
The Gujarat chief minister said the absence of the Third Front was the “most important” reason why the western part of India has seen development.
“In the western side, none of the Third Front parties have ruled. No associate of the Third Front has ever been able to step into that region. It is different here in the eastern states, where the Third front parties have ruled. The result is lack of development,” he said.
Repeatedly playing to Bengali sentiments, Modi invoked local icons like Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and promised to help create a “Sonar Bangla” (golden age of Bengal)
But the most sensational part of his address was the way Modi dragged the name of President Pranab Mukherjee to buttress his claim of the Congress and the Gandhi family’s apathy to West Bengal.
Modi claimed the Congress had twice denied the job of prime minister to Mukherjee – who hails from the state – first in 1984 after Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the second in 2004 when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi announced she would not become prime minister and instead backed Manmohan Singh.