'He was never a chaiwala and doesn't know how to prepare tea.'
'From chaiwala he has now become Rafalewala. He speaks a bunch of lies,' the West Bengal CM said.
Escalating his face-off with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused her of trying to protect those involved in chit fund scams and warned neither the perpetrators nor those shielding them will be spared.
The stormy TMC boss quickly returned the fire, calling Modi 'master of corruption' and a 'shame' for the country.
Addressing his third rally in the state in a week, Modi said Banerjee's ruling TMC had inherited the legacy of 'bloodshed, violence and atrocity' from the previous Communist government, and 'defamed' the soil of West Bengal.
Attacking Banerjee, who is at the forefront of efforts to stitch together a broad-based anti-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition of opposition parties ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Modi said the proposed 'Mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance) was 'maha milawat' (a grand adulteration) of people who had no ideology or vision for the country.
"Never in the history of our country have we seen a chief minister sitting on a dharna to save the corrupt. The poor want to know why did you sit on dharna to save those who are accused of negligence in probing the chit fund scam.
"This chowkidar (watchman) will not spare them. Whether it is the perpetrators or their protectors, nobody will be allowed to go scot free," Modi declared while addressing a BJP rally in Jalpaiguri district.
Banerjee reacted quickly and sharply to Modi's fulminations, referring to him as 'Mr Maddy'.
"The less we talk about this man the better. Mr Maddy is the master of corruption. He is master of arrogance and a shame for the country. I have no words to describe him. His standard is so low that we never expected such a man to be the prime minister.
"We have respect for the chair but not for this man," she told journalists in Kolkata.
She accused Modi of complicity in the alleged Rafale scam.
"He (Modi) is the most corrupt man in the Rafale deal. He is the master of note bandi (demonetisation). Devil chants mantra. He was never a 'chaiwala' and doesn't know how to prepare tea.
"From chaiwala he has now become Rafalewala. He speaks a bunch of lies," the West Bengal chief minister said, hitting back at Modi.
Ministers in the Union government and Banerjee are locked in a bitter exchange of words ever since the West Bengal chief minister dramatically launched a dharna to protest the Central Bureau of Investigation's bid to question Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the Saradha chit fund scam in which lakhs of investors were swindled of their money with the promise of astronomical returns.
Modi alleged that the Trinamool Congress dispensation had taken after its predecessor Left Front government in adopting the culture of bloodshed.
"Those you gave power to in Bengal in the name of 'maa, maati, manush (mother, motherland and man -- the TMC's poll slogan) have followed the culture of bloodshed, violence and atrocity of their Communist predecessors," he said, branding the TMC government 'Communist part 2'.
Recalling Bengal's rich cultural heritage, Modi said, "Today, law and order is in a shambles, industries and businesses are in ruins and young people are migrating to other states for jobs. This government has defamed 'maati' of Bengal and rendered its people 'majboor' (helpless)."
He said though 'Didi' (elder sister as Mamata is fondly addressed) was at the helm of the government, it was an 'extortionist syndicate' that was virtually running the administration.
"We are bringing back the corrupt from other countries and they are bent upon saving the corrupt here. Everybody who is corrupt is afraid of Modi," the prime minister said in an apparent reference to the government's efforts to bring back fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya.
Highlighting the contradictions among the probable constituents of the proposed opposition alliance, Modi said while Congress leaders in West Bengal accused the TMC government of being undemocratic, 'in Delhi, the brother-in-law of Robert Vadra is calling up Mamata Banerjee to extend his support'.
He berated the state government for thwarting rallies of BJP leaders by denying permission for their helicopters to land.
"The government here welcomes even infiltrators, but leaders of the BJP who follow the ideals of Vivekananda and have the resolve of Syama Prasad Mookerjee (founder of BJP's forerunner Jana Sangh) are being prevented from holding rallies. This shows that the ground is slipping from under Didi's feet," he said.
The prime minister attacked the Congress over its women's wing chief Sushmita Dev's assertion that the law against instant triple talaq will be scrapped if the party was voted to power.
"The Congress's agenda of appeasement stands exposed. Just like it committed the mistake in Shah Bano case (when Rajiv Gandhi was the PM), it is committing another mistake now.
"They don't have any regard for the Supreme Court which has outlawed the practice. They want Muslim women to be ruined. They say they will scrap the law. I assure Muslim women that nobody will be allowed to scrap the law," he said.
The Shah Bano case related to a controversial maintenance lawsuit on which the apex court delivered a judgment favouring maintenance for a divorced Muslim woman.
However, the then Congress government gave in to the Muslim clergy and enacted a law that placed the burden of maintenance on the woman's relatives or the Wakf Board.
Predicting the downfall of the TMC government in the next elections, Modi said BJP's performance in neighbouring Tripura will be replicated in West Bengal.
"Nobody dared to take on the TMC goons in the past. We are determined to rid Bengal of them. BJP workers are not afraid of anybody. If it weren't so, BJP wouldn't have gained strength and risen from having just two MPs to forming its government," he asserted.
Modi inaugurates Calcutta HC circuit bench, Mamata cries foul
Modi on Friday inaugurated the Jalpaiguri circuit bench of Calcutta high court but the CM took objection to it claiming that her government as well as the court were kept in the dark.
"Land is ours, circuit bench is of the high court. Neither the groom nor the bride is there but the band wala has come," Banerjee said about the inauguration of the circuit bench, accusing Modi of hijacking it.
A Calcutta high court official said there was no communication from the Centre or the state government regarding the inauguration of the bench.
Pressing a button, Modi unveiled the plaque of the circuit bench from a stage near his public meeting ground at Churabhandar in Jalpaiguri district and said a long-term demand of the people of north Bengal has been met and they won't have to travel to Kolkata any more for litigations.
A circuit bench is for territories which are far-flung but do not have too many matters to justify a full-fledged permanent bench.
Modi said that despite the sanction given by the union cabinet 13 to 14 years ago, 'the insensitive government in the state has not been able to start the circuit bench for so long'.
Denying the charge, Banerjee claimed she and the then Calcutta HC chief justice had planned to inaugurate the circuit bench four months ago but the Centre did not issue any notification.
But now the announcement was suddenly made to facilitate the inauguration by Modi to win some 'political brownie points', she alleged.
"Who has given land for the new building and funds for the circuit bench? Rs 300 crore has been spent by us (West Bengal government), the land was given by us," Banerjee said.
"Was anyone from the high court present? Neither the state nor the high court was informed ... Modi babu did not inform the high court or the state. He inaugurated it only because Lok Sabha elections are approaching. It is a matter of great shame," she said.
The inauguration ceremony was not attended by the Acting Chief Justice or any other judge of the high court.
A high court official said that there was no question of any of its judges attending the inauguration ceremony since there was no communication from the Centre or the state government.
"I am writing to the Supreme Court about it," the official said.
Inaugurating the bench, the prime minister said it will provide speedy justice to the people of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar in north Bengal.
Residents of these four districts will now have to travel less than 100 km instead of 600 km, he said.
The circuit bench will function from a refurbished zilla parishad bungalow till a new building is constructed for it.
Modi also laid the foundation stone for the four-laning of the Falakata-Salsalabari section of National Highway-31 D.
The 41.7 km-long section of National Highway falls in Jalpaiguri district and will be constructed at a cost of about Rs 1938 crore, he said.
The project will reduce the distance from Salsalabari and Alipurduar to Siliguri by nearly 50 km and will boost tourism in the region, he said.
The four-laning of the national highway will facilitate better movement of tea and other agricultural produce from the region to markets.