Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday addressed a mega rally at Kolkata's Brigade Ground where he once again made a pitch for 'ashol poriborton (real change)'. He also attacked the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, saying it broke the promise of bringing change in the state.
"Mamata Banerjee broke her of promise of bringing change in West Bengal. The state wants progress and peace. People here want ashol poriborton," said PM Modi, adding, "All that was snatched away from Bengal will be given back."
"This Brigade Parade Ground has been witness to many great leaders and also witnessed those who have disrupted West Bengal's progress. People of Bengal never left their hopes for change," said PM Modi, starting his address with the chants of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.
Lauding the huge turnout at the rally, the Prime Minister said it looks like today is May 2 (the day election results will be announced).
"The dream of 'sonar bangla' will be fulfilled. Today, I have come here today to assure you of Bengal's development, to increase investment here, to protect Bengal's culture and to bring change," said the Prime Minister.
He also promised developing West Bengal and its capital Kolkata into a 'city of future'. "The 'City of Joy' can be turned into 'City of Future'. A few days ago, the list of cities came out which ranked them on the basis of ease of living. If NDA government comes to power, we will make sure the infrastructure in Kolkata is given the required push so that it ranks on top in the list," said PM Modi.
This is PM Modi's first poll rally since the Election Commission announced the schedule of upcoming polls in West Bengal and other states. He was welcomed by actor Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the BJP just ahead of the rally, and party leader Dilip Ghosh.
This is also one of the many rallies the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has planned for PM Modi in West Bengal to give a boost a the party's prospects in the upcoming election. In 2019, it won a majority of Lok Sabha seats in north Bengal and this year, the party has thrown a challenge to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the TMC have, however, said that they will come back to power, ignoring the BJP's challenge. Banerjee has made it an 'outsider vs local' battle, projecting herself as daughter of Bengal.
The BJP is, meanwhile, upbeat over a number of defections from the TMC. Heavyweights like Suvendu Adhikari left the TMC and the BJP has fielded him against Banerjee from Nandigram, turning it into a Battle Royale in West Bengal. While Adhikari has vowed to defeat Banerjee, the chief minister has dismissed the contest as called the polls as "smiley election".
PM Modi made a series of visits to West Bengal before the election schedule was announced. During one such visit in February, he inaugurated a number of infrastructure and railway projects, and extension of a Kolkata metro line. The Prime Minister then said a BJP government in West Bengal isn't merely for a change in power, but for 'ashol poriborton'.
He also accused Banerjee-led TMC government of siphoning funds provided for cyclone relief and stalling the availability of free healthcare treatment.
The election is Bengal will be held in eight phases between March 27 and April 29. Counting of votes will take place on May 2.