KOLKATA: As Mamata Banerjee headed to Delhi for Round 2 of her protest against demonetisation, she described her party’s mammoth win in by-elections in the state as a “people’s revolt” against the Centre’s decision to abolish 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.
The West Bengal chief minister urged other parties to join her in beginning a wave of protests. “People have revolted. This is symbolic, It is a vote against demonetisation. In a democracy, people vent their anger through votes,” Ms Banerjee said at the Kolkata airport.
Her Trinamool Congress has retained the Monteshwar assembly seat and the Tamluk and Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seats by huge margins today. Sitting lawmakers had died in Monteshwar and Cooch Behar, while the Trinamool MP from Tamluk had vacated the seat to contest assembly elections earlier this year and is now a minister.
Ms Banerjee, who was re-elected West Bengal Chief Minister in a sweep of the state in May this year, also heads the fourth largest party in Parliament winning 34 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
She said her party won so handsomely today as “the people have voted for those working in the people’s interest”, also calling it a victory of the “common people.”
The Chief Minister has been at the heart of protests by a united opposition against the government’s notes ban, which is aimed at combating corruption and black or untaxed money.
Ms Banerjee has described the move as “draconian” and alleges that it punishes the poor instead of the corrupt, pointing to the long queues at banks and ATMs as people wait to exchange old notes for new currency, which has been in short supply with the sudden demonetisation removing 86 per cent cash from circulation.
The BJP-led central government has said that these are teething problems in the implementation of a massive move against corruption and will have long term benefits.
The BJP today called its win in three states where by-elections were held – Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Arunchal Pradesh – a signal of the people’s support for the notes ban.
Last week Ms Banerjee led a march to the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhawan to petition President Pranab Mukherjee to intervene. Other big opposition parties did not join the march but the ruling BJP’s ally the Shiv Sena did.
She had also held another protest along with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
In parliament, her party’s lawmakers are part of a bloc of 11 opposition parties that have disrupted parliament continuously demanding that Prime MInister Narendra Modi explain his decision in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House, where the government is in a minority.
Mamata Banerjee said she will stage a dharna at 12.30 pm in Delhi tomorrow and has said, “If any party wants to come, they are welcome. In parliament, we are all working together.”