PM Modi Dials Sandeshkhali Victim, BJP Basirhat Pick Rekha Patra

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Rekha Patra is BJP’s candidate from Bengal’s Basirhat

New Delhi:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called up a sexual harassment victim from Bengal’s Sandeshkhali, also the BJP’s candidate from Basirhat Lok Sabha seat, and asked about her poll preparations.

In his telephonic conversation with Rekha Patra, the Prime Minister asked her about the mood of the people and called her Shakti Swaroopa (embodiment of Shakti). Ms Patra told the Prime Minister about the sufferings of the people of the island, who have alleged harassment by Trinamool Congress leaders.

Starting the conversation in Bengali, the Prime Minister told Ms Patra that she has signed up for a huge responsibility. Ms Patra told him that he “is like a God” for the women of Sandeshkhali. “We feel Ram ji is with us,” she said. The Prime Minister replied that he is grateful that Sandeshkhali’s women have blessed him.

He then asked her how the people of Sandeshkhali responded to her choice as the BJP’s candidate.

In her reply, Ms Patra referred to Trinamool strongman Sheikh Shahjahan, who is now in the custody of Enforcement Directorate in connection with a mob attack on the agency’s officials. “From 2011, we could not vote here. We want proper security so that we can cast our votes. We are thankful for your support.”

Ms Patra also said some women on the island had held protests after she was chosen as the candidate. “They have sent a message to us and said they did everything on the Trinamool’s instructions and promised they won’t repeat this. There is no enmity. We will work for anyone,” she said.

The Prime Minister praised her for wishing the best for those who protested against her. “BJP has done a great job by making you a candidate,” he said.

Ms Patra said she is confident of public support. “I am from an underprivileged family. My husband works in Chennai. We struggle to make ends meet. I want to do something to ensure that people get work here and they don’t have to leave the state,” she said.

The Prime Minister said he is confident of her win. “You are Shakti Swaroopa, you sent such powerful people to jail. We will together fight for the honour of women, not just in Basirhat, but across Bengal. You have my full support,” he said.

“Bengal is the land of Durga Puja and you are an embodiment of that Shakti. It is not easy to raise the voice of Sandeshkhali women. We feel the nari shakti of Bengal will bless us this time. People are disturbed due to the Trinamool Congress government,” he said.

“The Prime Minister promised to support us. There is immense joy in Sandeshkhali after I was chosen as a candidate,” Ms Patra told the media after her conversation with the Prime Minister.

The Sandeshkhali residents’ allegations of land grab, extortion and sexual harassment against Trinamool leaders has emerged as a key talking point for the upcoming election. Eager to keep the pot boiling, the BJP has fielded Ms Patra as its candidate for the Basirhat seat, under which Sandeshkhali comes.

The Prime Minister’s ‘Shakti Swaroopa’ title for Ms Patra is also a play on the Shakti debate between the BJP and the INDIA alliance.

Responding to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remark that the Opposition is up against the “shakti” – meaning power – of the State, Prime Minister Modi had said the INDIA alliance wants to destroy Shakti, which is worshipped in several parts of India.

The Prime Minister’s counter-strike alluded to Shaktism, a goddess-centric tradition in Hinduism widely followed in several parts of the country, including Bengal.

The Prime Minister has said every woman of the country is a reflection of ‘Shakti’ and that his government always gives preference to ‘Nari Shakti’ or ‘women power’. In response, Mr Gandhi has accused the Prime Minister of twisting his words.

The Prime Minister’s Nari Shakti plank also aims to hit Mamata Banerjee’s key support base of women voters, one she has cultivated over the years through her women-centric welfare schemes. 

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