Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress yesterday sought an apology from BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, threatening to file a defamation suit over his raising questions about Mamata Banerjee’s (pictured) painting allegedly being sold for Rs18m.
The Bharatiya Janata Party hit back, saying Trinamool’s attack on Modi was indicative of its “political bankruptcy”.
Trinamool’s national general secretary Mukul Roy said Modi’s charge against their chairperson was a “blatant lie” and shot off a letter to the Election Commission.
“Yesterday (Sunday), he claimed that one of Banerjee’s paintings was sold for Rs18m. Either he should prove it or take his words back ... we seek an unconditional apology,” Roy said.
He said it was a violation of the model code of conduct, and was “tantamount to character assassination”.
“We strongly oppose it,” Roy told reporters here.
Addressing a party rally in Sreerampore in Hooghly district on Sunday, Modi attacked the state government over the Saradha chit fund scam and raised questions about Banerjee’s painting being sold at an exorbitant price.
“You (Banerjee) are a good painter. I have heard earlier your paintings used to be sold for Rs400,000, Rs800,000, Rs1.5m. But what is the reason behind your painting once being sold for Rs18m,” Modi asked at the rally.
Describing Modi as “arrogant and a snob”, Trinamool spokesperson and state Finance Minister Amit Mitra threatened to file a defamation suit and accused the BJP leader of misleading the nation with his “baseless claims of development”. “Someone, whose hands are stained with the blood of riots in Gujarat, is making personal attacks against Didi (Banerjee). We will bring out facts to prove how Modi is misleading the nation with his baseless claims of development,” said Mitra.
He also raised questions about alleged underselling of the government-owned BALCO and a scam involving the Unit Trust of India (UTI) when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power.
“He should apologise in public or we will file a defamation suit because his charges are patently false,” said Mitra.
He claimed that the sale proceeds of Banerjee’s paintings were donated to a relief fund and used for funding the election.
The state BJP strongly condemned the Trinamool’s attack on Modi.
“Unable to counter the allegations politically, Trinamool leaders have stooped to a new low, making offensive comments, and trying to belittle the political discourse. The comments reflect the Trinamool has become politically bankrupt,” the BJP said in a press statement.
State BJP president Rahul Sinha too condemned the attack and asserted that the “sale of a painting at exorbitant prices was a well known fact and did not need to be proved”.
The man at the centre of the chit fund controversy, Saradha promoter Sudipta Sen, who the opposition parties allege is the buyer of the paintings, has denied having purchased Banerjee’s artwork. Sen, now behind bars for the scam, during one of his court appearances told media persons that the painting was not bought for any money, only to subsequently claim that he did not make any such purchase.
“The painting was not bought for any money,” said Sen and then went on to add “I don’t know about any such purchase of painting, I did not purchase any