NEW DELHI — India’s main communist party reacted with derision Wednesday to allegations by West Bengal’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, that it is involved in a vast domestic and foreign conspiracy to assassinate her.
“There can be nothing more ridiculous,” a leader of the Communist Party of India — Marxist (CPM), Situram Yechury, told reporters. “We will examine whether it merits defamation” charges.
Banerjee, in an interview with The Washington Post, accused her Marxist political opponents — a mainstream political party that supported India’s coalition government from 2004 to 2008 — of conspiring with Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites, who have fought an armed insurrection against the state for decades.
Their ultimate aim was to kill her, she said, sketching out a plot implicating Pakistan’s military intelligence agency and backed by funds from several foreign countries.
“Now they are working together, Maoists and Marxists, just like cousins,” she said.
Banerjee took power in her eastern Indian state in 2011, ending 34 years of communist rule there. While she remains popular among many poor people in West Bengal, her intolerance of dissent has alienated many members of the middle-class intelligentsia.
Earlier this year, when a chemistry professor shared a cartoon by e-mail mocking the chief minister, he was beaten by her party workers and arrested.
“CPM, they compose photo, the Maoists, it is there,” Banerjee said.
“They are not democratic. They don’t believe in democracy, they believe in murder, killings. They are not democratic people,” she added. “They get money from Hungary sometimes, sometimes Korea, sometimes Venezuela, this is their system — in the name of NGO [nongovernmental organizations], they get the foreign funds.”
“They have given me the death sentence, and every day they are spreading this superimposed photo, on Facebook or Internet or in the e-mail, through some false, camouflaged name.”
Yechury ridiculed Banerjee for what he called her efforts to designate a “grand coalition and axis of evil.”
But West Bengal’s urban development minister, Farhad Hakim, defended Banerjee’s comments. “The Maoists and the CPM are against her life, it is known to everyone,” he told local reporters in Kolkata. “And they want to kill democracy, kill progress.”
Last week, Banerjee sparked more controversy by walking out of a televised debate with students in Kolkata, after fielding some uncomfortable questions from the audience.
“You are a CPM activist, and I’m not here to answer CPM-backed questions. You are a Maoist. Go back to the jungles,” she told one student before unclipping her microphone and leaving.