After slamming Narendra Modi as "Butcher of Gujarat", a furious Trinamool Congress today demanded a public apology from him for doubting the integrity of Mamata Banerjee over the sale of her paintings and also complained to the Election Commission against him. In signs that a post poll-alliance between BJP and TMC could be difficult to forge, the ruling party in West Bengal asked how can someone whose hands are "blood-stained" in 2002 Gujarat riots make personal attacks against the Chief Minister and raise questions about her sincerity.
"Either he has to prove this (charges on sale of paintings) or apologise publicly for this. Otherwise we will file a defamation case against him," TMC general secretary Mukul Roy told reporters in Kolkata.
Modi, at a rally in Srirampore on Sunday, had said, "Your (Mamata) paintings used to be sold for Rs 4 lakh, Rs 8 lakh or Rs 15 lakh, but what is the reason that one of your paintings sold for Rs 1.80 crore. I respect art. But who was the person who bought the painting for Rs 1.80 crore. Who all have bought her paintings, for what price they bought it, suddenly how they found out your talent, this the people of Bengal want to know," the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate said.
Roy said the party has written to the Election Commission complaining that such "unsubstantiated" allegations are a violation of the model code of conduct. "Someone whose hands are blood-stained in Gujarat riots is doubting the integrity and sincerity of our leader and making personal attacks," he said. State finance minister Amit Mitra said all money raised from the sale of paintings have either gone for charity purposes or funding the party's mouthpiece 'Jago Bangla'.
"Modi has made a very low level of personal attack on her. By going to the lowest denominator he has changed the political discourse in the country," he said. Asked about TMC's strong reaction to Modi's criticism of Banerjee, BJP said it was "rattled beyond its comprehension" over the response to the party in West Bengal. "They did not expect their fortress shaken up," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in Delhi. Another BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the TMC should learn to accept criticism since there is no "personal enmity".
As questions were raised over a possible Saradha link to the painting, Sudipta Sen, key accused in the Saradha ponzi scam, said he didn't buy any art work of Banerjee. "I didn't buy the Chief Minister's painting," Sen told reporters when he was brought to the Shyamal Sen Commission office in Kolkata for questioning. He was asked whether he had bought any painting of Banerjee for Rs 1.8 crore. Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh also waded into the row between BJP and TMC and said there is nothing new about Modi's tactic of making baseless allegations and cheap pot-shots. "Mamata is his latest victim, we are so used to his crudity!," he tweeted.