Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee hit back on Thursday at extortion allegations levelled against him by the BJP, inviting the opposition party to “build gallows in public (so I can) embrace death” if they can prove the charges.
“They are attacking me everyday. They say ‘remove the extortionist nephew’. I have said this earlier and I am saying this again in front of the cameras here. If you can prove that I am involved in extortion and if you can prove I am involved in any wrongdoing, you don’t have to send the Enforcement Directorate and CBI after me. Build gallows in public and I will embrace death,” Abhishek said at an event in Bengal’s South Dinajpur district.
The public meeting, which was streamed live on Facebook, showed Abhishek, who is chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, standing on a wooden platform with hundreds of Trinamool members gathered around and many more packed on the rooftops of neighbouring buildings, loudly cheering him on.
Abhishek has been relentlessly targeted by the opposition party ahead of the Assembly elections due in Bengal in a few months. For weeks, “tolabaj bhaipo”, or “extortionist nephew” has been the party’s punch line in an already bitter campaign against Mamata, whom the party has also accused of nepotism by favouring and propping up her nephew.
On Tuesday, Union minister Anurag Thakur had taken a shot, comparing Abhishek to sheikhs in Gulf countries — an allusion to the Lok Sabha MP’s growing influence in the ruling party.
Former Trinamool leader Suvendu Adhikari, whose high-profile exit and controversial switch to the BJP was followed by that of nearly 60 other leaders, has been at the forefront of his new party’s calls for “tolabaj bhaipo hatao”, or “remove the extortionist nephew”. Last month, Abhishek, launching a counter-attack, had said it was Adhikari who was the extortionist.