Mamata Banerjee was addressing a press conference in Kolkata on Wednesday (File)

Kolkata:

Mamata Banerjee took a few jabs at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday as she called for bypolls to the Bengal Assembly within a week, saying “… when PM gives instructions, Election Commission will act…”

Ms Banerjee also lashed out at the centre over the row involving ex-Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who was served a new notice on Monday. She served one of her own, saying “in 2024 they (the BJP) may not be in power”.

“I request Prime Minister to give instructions for bypolls. Covid is down… bypolls can be held within seven days. I have heard that when PM gives instructions the Election Commission will act,” Ms Banerjee said at a press conference in Kolkata.

“Why delay? Bengal polls were held when Covid positivity rate was 30 per cent. Now it is down to three per cent, or less…,” she said – a reference to criticism of the top poll body continuing with elections amid the second Covid wave.

Ms Banerjee weathered a vitriolic opposition campaign and clashes with the poll body, which she accused of conspiring with the BJP in ordering the eight-phase poll to lead the Trinamool to victory and win a third straight term.

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Mamata Banerjee also lashed out over a second notice to ex-Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay

However, she lost from Nandigram in a high-stakes battle against the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari. She will contest the bypoll from Bhabhinpur and must win – within six months – to stay Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, the fallout of the bitterly-fought Bengal election continued into a scrap over the Chief Minister’s former Chief Secretary – Alapan Bandyopadhyay.

The now-retired IAS officer was last month caught between the centre and Mamata Banerjee after she skipped a meeting with the Prime Minister to review damage caused by Cyclone Yaas.

This week he was served a new notice warning of “major penalty proceedings“.

“The officer can act on the central notice at his convenience. State will give full support,” she said, accusing the centre of “victimising a bereaved officer”.

He had, she said, had lost his mother, brother and nephew within 20 days.

“They are not following the law, only flexing muscle… country is not the BJP’s alone. Most states are run by opposition parties,” she added.

The Chief Minister then sounded a warning of her own to the BJP, saying: “Today they are in government… in 2024 they may not be in power.”

With one eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, there has been talk of a unified opposition front to challenge the BJP. Ms Banerjee’s win in Bengal led to talk she might be the candidate to lead that front and challenge PM Modi. She told NDTV last month “… after Covid battle is over, we will decide…”.

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