Kolkata Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hit out at West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her appeal to Muslim voters in the state to unite against the Bharatiya Janata Party, even as the Trinamool Congress supremo alleged that the BJP was threatening people to vote in its favor.

The state’s 31 constituencies constituency voted in the third phase on Tuesday.

Addressing a rally in North Bengal, the PM said, “If I had urged Hindus to unite and vote for BJP, the ECI would have sent me 8 – 10 notices. The poll panel sends notices to the Prime Ministers too. It would have made front-page news and all sorts of editorial pieces would have been written to tear me apart. I don’t know whether the ECI has sent any notice to Didi.”

The PM was referring to Banerjee’s remarks ahead of the third phase where she urged the Muslim voters to not vote for the BJP.

“A friend of BJP has come from Hyderabad. Along with a boy from Furfura Sharif he is spending crores of rupees and giving communal slogans. They are not only trying to divide Hindus and Muslims, but even attempting to split the Muslim votes. Don’t cast your vote for them because that would go to the BJP,” Banerjee had said on Saturday while addressing a rally in South 24 Parganas.

Of the total 294 constituencies in the state, 125 have a significant Muslim population.

“This proves that the people you had relied upon to win the elections have abandoned you and you are now publicly urging Muslims to unite and vote for you and save you,” Modi said.

According to the last Census, Muslims account for 27% of the state’s population. The community has traditionally voted for the Left and switched to the TMC in the last few elections. In the 2016 assembly polls, TMC, which won 211 of the 294 seats, won 90 seats in Muslim-dominated constituencies.

The PM also hit out at TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, who is the CM’s nephew. “Didi has introduced a new tax – Bhaipo Service Tax. The poor daughters and sisters of Bengal saved their hard earned money, which went towards Bhaipo Service Tax. The youth of Bengal is yearning for every single penny and there 35 – 40 crore are coming in a month. That’s why there is a slogan coming up from every corner of Bengal – Chalo Paltai (lets change),” he said.

On Sunday, the BJP released a purported audio clip of a conversation between Kolkata-based businessman Ganesh Bagaria and absconding TMC leader Vinay Mishra, both of whom are suspects in the coal smuggling case. In the audio clip, one man could be heard saying that the money from the coal scam went to Abhishek Banerjee. HT could not independently verify the videos. The TMC has refuted the allegations.

The chief minister, meanwhile, alleged that BJP activists were occupying polling booths and attacking TMC candidates. “Only those party workers would be made polling agents who would not be afraid of the BJP. Even today (in the third phase polls) some agents fled after being threatened by BJP. TMC would reward those party workers who are not afraid of BJP,” she said at a public meeting here in Alipurduar district.

The TMC supremo said her party’s nominee in Arambagh, Sujata Mondal, was chased and hit on head near a polling booth by BJP workers. “They have inflicted serious injury on our Scheduled Caste candidate Sujata, when she visited a booth. They also hit another candidate in Khanakul. In Canning East, security forces prevented our nominee Shaukat Mollah from entering a booth. There had been numerous such instances of attack on our candidates, party workers across the state,” Banerjee said.

The CM further stated that she has received at least 100 complaints of assault and violence since the voted began on Tuesday, and the EC has been duly informed but to no avail.

Earlier in the day, the TMC chief tweeted that the BJP was misusing central forces to threaten people to vote in BJP’s favour.

“The blatant misuse of Central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, @ECISVEEP continues to be a mute spectator while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters & influence many to vote in favour of one party,” the CM said in a tweet.

Reiterating her allegations at a rally in Cooch Behar, she said, “We have lodged several FIR against the CRPF. We will lodge FIR against the commandants and take legal action. Everyone has the right to move the ECI.”

Alleging that the BJP leadership after experiencing a “poor turnout” in rallies has conspired against the TMC, Banerjee said, “Security forces have been asked not to resist booth capturing. Four of our activists have been murdered since the elections began, but no action has been taken. But you (BJP) cannot terrorise us, intimidate us by such acts.”



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