PM Modi, Mamata Banerjee’s rallies at north Bengal’s Cooch Behar seat today

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Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee are scheduled to address back-to-back Lok Sabha campaign rallies on Thursday at Cooch Behar in north Bengal, a region where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made maximum electoral gains since the 2019 elections.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(HT File Photo)

This is the first time in this election season that Modi and the Trinamool Congress chairperson will be addressing voters of a constituency on the same day.

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North Bengal’s Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri seats, all named after the three districts where they are located, are going to the polls on April 19 in the first of the seven phases Bengal will witness.

The BJP wrested all three seats from the ruling TMC in 2019. Two of the winners, Nisith Pramanik from Cooch Behar and John Barla from Alipurduar, are serving as Union ministers of state.

On Thursday, Modi is scheduled to address one rally in Cooch Behar, while Banerjee will address two, their parties announced on Wednesday night.

In 2019, the BJP bagged 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Saha seats, creating a record. In north Bengal, it secured seven of the eight seats. The eastern state’s main opposition force plans to win at least 25 seats this year.

Although the BJP could win only 77 of Bengal’s 294 assembly seats in the 2021 polls, against 213 grabbed by the TMC, it still managed to bag 30 of the 54 seats in the eight north Bengal districts. The TMC later wrested two of these north Bengal seats in the bypolls.

Banerjee is touring the north Bengal districts and meeting voters since Sunday when she hurriedly took a chartered flight within hours of norwesters hitting parts of the region. Two community blocks in Jalpaiguri district, where five people died, were the worst affected.

Preparing the ground for a political confrontation, the chief minister’s nephew and TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee targeted the prime minister on Wednesday for the Centre’s decision to stop funds for housing projects for the poor under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) citing irregularities in implementation.

“I expect him (Modi) to furnish a white paper on the amount paid to Bengal under PMAY after the BJP lost the assembly polls in 2021. Had people been living in pucca houses they would not have faced the wrath of the massive storm,” Abhishek said.

Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya countered him.

Bhattacharya said, “The Centre stopped the funds because it is tax payers’ money. Corruption during TMC’s regime has been exposed by the scams federal agencies are probing under court orders. People of Bengal have taken their decision. They want Narendra Modi to lead the nation once again.”

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