Mamata Banerjee arrived at work on an electric scooter today. The West Bengal Chief Minister, known for her modest “Santro” image, took things a notch up – or, perhaps, down – to drive home the point on spiralling fuel prices. In the run up to the state Assembly polls scheduled for April-May, today’s ride is an indication that the Trinamool Congress head isn’t going to let go off any opportunity to attack the BJP which has relentlessly badgered her government over the past many months.
Ms Banerjee’s ride today comes days after RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, on Monday, drove a tractor to reach the Bihar assembly. He was expressing solidarity with those opposing three new farm laws and also protesting against the spike in prices of petrol, diesel, and cooking gas.
Initially riding pillion as state Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim rode the battery-powered scooter, the Chief Minister herself took over the bike towards the last leg of her journey. A considerable stretch of the five-kilometre trip from Kolkata’s Hazra More locality to the state secretariat in Nabanna passed over the Hooghly river bridge. The entire ride was telecast through Facebook Live.
In her trademark white cotton sari, Ms Banerjee also wore a helmet and mask during the ride. Her bike was also followed by a group of others.
However, what stood apart was an apron-like poster with the picture of an LPG cylinder, superscribed with terms like “petrol price hike” and “diesel price hike” under the heading “What is in your mouth”.
Fuel prices have increased considerably across the country over the past many weeks. In Kolkata, for instance, petrol costs Rs 91.12 and a cylinder of cooking gas comes at a reported Rs 820.50, rising three times this month alone.
The state assembly polls are likely to be held in April-May and the BJP has gathered remarkable momentum in the run up, investing money, time, and energy. The ruling Trinamool has, meanwhile, tried to dub it an “outsider” party that doesn’t understand West Bengal. The poll campaign, till now, has been largely vitriolic.
Amid this, the battery-charged scooter ride today also seems like an attempt to reinforce her Hawaii-slipper-wearing everyday-woman image among voters.