SHILLONG, Dec 13 (PTI): West Bengal chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday alleged that the BJP government at the Centre has neglected Meghalaya and other northeastern states.
Banerjee, addressing a TMC workers’ convention here, said her party wants to assist the people of Meghalaya to ensure that the state is ruled by sons of the soil.
“The central government has totally neglected Meghalaya as well as other northeastern states. We will ensure that we bring change and the hill state prospers… Let us walk together on the path of progress; why divide people based on caste and religion?” she said.
Banerjee also promised a financial inclusion scheme under which a direct transfer of Rs 1,000 per month will be made to women in every household of Meghalaya.
“Women in Meghalaya have suffered enough. While the state government neglects them, we aim to empower them,” she said while sounding poll bugle in the state.
Assembly polls are due in Meghalaya early next year.
Earlier in the day, the Trinamool Congress supremo also distributed Rs 5 lakh each to next of kin of those killed in clashes along the Assam-Meghalaya border last month.
“Today, I met the families of the victims of the tragic Mukroh firing. It was my duty to stand by them in their time of grief. As a small act of assistance, I handed over ex gratia cheques of Rs 5 lakh to their kin,” she said.
Violence had broken out at Mukroh village near the disputed border between the two states in West Karbi Anglong district in November, after a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber was intercepted by forest guards from Assam.
Six people – five tribal villagers from Meghalaya and a forest guard from Assam – were killed in the clashes.
The TMC is now Meghalaya’s main opposition party in its 60-member assembly by virtue of the defection of 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs, including former chief minister Mukul Sangma in November last year.
However, one of the 12 resigned from the assembly and also from the party last month, reducing the TMC’s strength in the House to 11.
Besides Tripura and Assam, Meghalaya is one of the northeastern states where the TMC is trying to make inroads. The party had also contested the assembly election in Manipur in 2012.
While Meghalaya is being governed by a coalition of NPP, BJP and others, the saffron party-headed groupings are ruling Assam and Tripura.
Accompanied by TMC national general secretary and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, she reached the state capital on Monday.
Abhishek Banerjee had visited Meghalaya twice this year. During his last visit, he inaugurated a TMC party office in the Garo Hills region and met church leaders besides addressing a public meeting in western Meghalaya.
Interestingly, the ruling NPP president and chief minister Conrad Sangma’s father is the late PA Sangma, the former Lok Sabha Speaker who had merged his faction of the NCP with the TMC in 2004.
Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Meghalaya came days after the state government filed a criminal defamation suit against TMC national spokesperson Saket Gokhale for making claims that a state-owned tourism firm misappropriated funds worth over Rs 630 crore.
The TMC is also trying to make its presence felt in Tripura and Assam.
Several politicians have joined the TMC in Tripura in recent times. The party had bagged over 20 per cent votes in the state-wide civic polls there but performed poorly in the assembly by-elections.
Out of the seven Congress MLAs, six had switched over to the TMC in 2016 but all of them joined the BJP the next year. The ruling CPI(M) was defeated by a BJP-led coalition in 2018. Now, the Congress has been trying to gain ground in Tripura where the assembly election will also be held next year.
In Assam, the TMC inducted former Congress heavyweights Sushmita Dev and Ripun Bora into the party with the former being made a Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal.
Banerjee, who frequently visited the state to offer prayers at the Kamakhya Temple, has been vocal on several occasions on issues related to the Bengali-speaking population in the Barak Valley.