The flyover collapse in Kolkata was not an “act of God’, but an act of “fraud”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, taking a dig at West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday during an election rally.
Speaking at Madarihat in the North Bengal Dooars tea belt, Modi turned the construction company’s excuse into a sharp barb aimed at the ruling Trinamool Congress.
“It was not an act of God, but an act of fraud. It was the result of how you ran your government. Today it was a bridge. Tomorrow entire Bengal will collapse,” Modi said during his second public rally after Kharagpur on March 27.
On March 31, a 60-metre section of a flyover under construction collapsed in the heart of Kolkata killing close to 30 people and injuring about 90. IVRCL, a Hyderabad-based construction company behind the project, had immediately reacted to the tragedy saying it was an act of God.
The Prime Minister also targeted the prevalence of a building material syndicate that is allegedly run by leaders and supporters of the ruling party and is now being blamed as a key contributor to the disaster.
“The syndicate has cast its net. Syndicates have swallowed the entire system,” Modi said, and pointed a finger at Mamata Banerjee for playing politics with the disaster.
“Trinamool Congress stands for “Terror, Maut and Corruption,” he also said.
“Whenever a disaster happens and the headman reaches there, the first act is to arrange for rescuing the injured and sending them to the hospital. But the first thing Didi did was to say that the tenders were awarded during the Left regime.”
“Tell me, if you went to inaugurate the flyover after it was completed, would you have said the tender was awarded by the earlier Left regime?,” he further accused as the crowd cheered.
West Bengal began voting for the assembly seats on April 4, a crucial election that could see political fortunes turn. While analysts predicted the Trinamool Congress would be a shoo-in, the flyover collapse could hurt the ruling party’s chance, and the BJP is hoping to gain political capital from this.
Modi started his speech in Bengali, drawing on tea to connect with his audience. “You produce tea here. I also sold tea in my childhood. I want your blessings as I want to solve your problems.”
In quite a few tea gardens in the Dooars region, more than 100 workers had died of conditions related to severe malnourishment in the past few months. Given the ailing condition of several tea gardens, the Centre in January authorised the Tea Board of India to take over seven gardens belonging to the G P Goenka group – Birpara, Garganda, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Huntapara, Dhumchipara, Demdima with a total of 17,555 workers. The move followed more than one visit of union minister Nirmala Seetharaman who came to check on the situation in the gardens.
“We ordered takeover of the tea gardens. But Mamata Banerjee together with the owners went to the court and obtained a stay… But I will not stop. I will not allow welfare of the tea workers to stop,” Modi said, as he accused the state government of apathy and alleged no welfare officers were willing to listen to the plight of the distressed tea workers.
“The Left took the state on the path of ruin in 34 years. Didi is pushing Bengal forward in the same direction,” he added.
Also focusing on Gorkhas, Modi said, “Many promised that they will include the Gorkhas among the SC and ST category. But none delivered. Your MP has started the exercise,” referring to S S Ahluwalia who won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 with support from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a BJP ally.