Mamata declines Modi's swearing-in invite, BJP hits out
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced that she will not attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in on Thursday, alleging the BJP was using the ceremony "to score political points".
The BJP, however, hit back at her, saying she was looking for "excuses" to avoid attending the event.
"The oath-taking ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to score political points," Banerjee said in a social media post.
The Trinamool Congress chief's remark came after media reports said at least 70 family members of slain Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists in West Bengal had been invited to the ceremony as "special guests".
This is being seen as a message to Banerjee ahead of Assembly elections scheduled in 2021.
The Chief Minister took exception to the BJP's claim that 54 people had been "murdered in political violence" in her state.
Congratulating Modi for taking over as the Prime Minister again, Banerjee said she did plan "to accept the constitutional invitation" and attend the oath-taking ceremony.
"However, in the past one hour, I am seeing media reports with the BJP claiming that 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal," she said.
Calling the claim "completely untrue", she said: "There have been no political murders in Bengal."
Banerjee said the deaths may have occurred due to "personal enmity, family quarrels and other disputes, nothing related to politics".
"There is no such record with us," she added.
Earlier, state BJP Secretary Tushar Kanti Ghosh told IANS: "The special guests -- including the kin of Sishupal Sahish, Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar, who were killed and hanged from trees in Bengal's Purulia district -- will be taken to New Delhi by Rajdhani Express."
He said they were scheduled to return on Friday.
Political analysts feel the presence of the families of deceased BJP activists as "special guests" at the same venue would have been embarrassing for Banerjee in the backdrop of the way the saffron outfit has been highlighting the attacks and murders on its functionaries in Bengal.
During the Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi and BJP President Amit Shah repeatedly highlighted the issue of violence directed at their party in West Bengal.
Criticising Banerjee's decision, BJP General Secretary and West Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya said Banerjee doesn't believe in the federal structure.
"She got an excuse (for not attending). The decision to invite the kin of BJP workers was of the state unit. The kin were asked if they wished to attend, they can. They expressed their desire to come, hence they were invited," Vijayvargiya said at a press conference in Delhi.
He said Banerjee doesn't believe in the federal structure and has shown similar behaviour in the past too.
"She was looking for excuses," he added.IANS