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Farmer leader, Rakesh Tikait raises Trinamool’s Election Slogan "Khela Hobe" in Nandigram

Chintu Das
Chintu Das
Rakesh Tikait

Farmers' leader Rakesh Tikait briefed a mahapanchayat (public meeting) in Bengal's Nandigram today, despite an extreme Trinamool-BJP clash over Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's injury last week. "Don't vote for the BJP," he urged citizens of the state's assembly constituency, where Ms Banerjee would meet Suvendu Adhikari, whose departure from the Trinamool Congress last year caused an exodus of party leaders.

"Over 5 lakh farmers have been camped on Delhi's outskirts for the past 110 days. Khela hobe (the game has begun), khela. Imagine what games the government will play and what will happen in Bengal," Rakesh Tikait said as the crowd chanted "Khela Hobe" in Bengali "- the slogan popularized by the Trinamool Congress ahead of the Bengal elections.

"This is my letter to the Bengali people. Don't vote for the (BJP-led) central government because it has looted the region (BJP). If they approach you for votes, ask them when they will obtain their MSP (minimum support price) "he said. Tikait, who has been heading a huge farmers' agitation at the Delhi-UP border towards three central agriculture regulations, was received in Kolkata earlier today by Trinamool MP Dola Sen.

Tikait, a critic of the BJP-led central government on farm issues, met with party leaders on Kolkata's Mayo Road before leaving for Nandigram. He said he would fly through Bengal to protest against the BJP, calling the alleged assault on Ms Banerjee "unfortunate." He, on the other hand, claimed that he was not in Bengal to seek votes for any political party.

Banerjee was injured last week while campaigning in Nandigram after filing her nomination papers, fracturing her foot, head, and chest. She told reporters that four or five unidentified persons pushed her and slammed the car door shut in her face. While the Trinamool Congress blamed the BJP and the Election Commission for the incident, the opposition said it was an accident and that Ms Banerjee was creating "drama" to gain sympathy votes.

The Election Commission responded angrily earlier this week to Trinamool's claim that the "strike" occurred a day after the Bengal police chief was removed. In its response, the poll panel said, "It is undignified to even refer to the accusations that much of this is being conducted at the behest of a single political party."

The accusations "virtually undermined the very basis and fabric of the Indian Constitution," the influential election body said, adding that it "does not appropriate or take over the day-to-day government of any state, including West Bengal." On Friday, Ms Banerjee was released from the hospital.

A Bengal chief secretary's report on the Nandigram episode was found "not detailed" by the Election Commission on Friday. An official from the state election office told news agency PTI that the report made no mention of the "four-five people" who allegedly assaulted her. He explained that it was referring to the presence of a big crowd at the venue. The Bengal assembly election, which will be held in eight phases, will begin on March 27. On May 2, the counting will take place.

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