In a clarion call to the Muslim community on Eid-ul-Fitr day, India's West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked Muslims to unite against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, she also urged overseas and NRI Muslim voters to return to the country during next year's parliament election and vote against the BJP.
"They are saying thok do, thok do. What thok do? If we get united, they will lose their chair. Next year, around this time, we would change the chair (at the centre)," the chief minister said while addressing Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations on Red Road in central Kolkata.
"Lok Sabha elections are scheduled next year. It would be decided who would come to power (at the centre). The entire country should decide. And those who work outside must return (to the country) to vote in the 2024 elections," the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo added.
Banerjee had long advocated a third front led by regional satraps to take on the BJP in the 2024 elections. The party, however, recently lost its national status.
Emphasizing her commitment to maintaining peace and unity in the state, CM Banerjee asserted she did not want riots or divisions in the country and promised to do everything in her power to prevent such occurrences.
"We want peace. We don't want riots. We don't want the country to get divided. On Eid day, I promise that I would lay down my life but won't allow some people to divide the country. We have to fight against traitors, money-power and (central) agencies. I am ready to fight. I have the guts to fight. But I am not ready to bow down," said the Bengal chief minister.
The state recently witnessed communal clashes in three districts centring around the Ram Navami celebrations.
She alleged: "Some people take money from the BJP and say that they would divide the Muslim votes. I would tell them that they don't have the guts."
The chief minister recently flagged a letter which her government received from the Centre for identifying illegal Aadhaar cardholders in some bordering districts of the state. She raised concerns about whether the Centre was trying to revive the citizenship overdrive ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
"They are again trying to bring back NRC [National Register of Citizens]. I don't know about other states but won't allow it," she added.
The BJP has often accused the Mamata Banerjee-led government of appeasement politics. The saffron party has also alleged that Banerjee orchestrated the Ram Navami clashes to consolidate the Muslim vote bank.
The TMC recently lost Sagardighi , one of its bastions in a by-election, which consolidated more than 60% Muslim voters. Sagardighi in Murshidabad was a TMC stronghold for 13 years.
"The chief minister seems to have lost her mental balance. She is using the auspicious day of Eid-ul-Fitr, when Muslims pray for the well-being of everyone, to achieve her vested political interests. Muslims should never forgive her for maligning this scary day," said Rahul Sinha, senior BJP leader.