Yet again the West Bengal Food Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Jyotipriya Mullick is at the centre of a controversy, after an alleged hate speech. Leaders of the major Opposition parties said here on Thursday, the speech was aimed at inciting animosities in the face of his party’s growing alienation from the people ahead of the rural polls. 

Mr. Mullick’s remarks at a party rally in Birati in the North 24 Parganas district on Wednesday, the footage of which was shown by some local television channels a day after, have evoked strong reactions from the Opposition. 

In his speech, the Minister drew a parallel between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a poisonous cobra. The former should be treated in the manner one would a cobra if it ever slithered into one’s house, he said, adding that he had taken the cue from Trinamool Congress MP Suvendu Adhikari who had made a similar comparison on another occasion. 

Not only did the Minister renew his call, first given at a congregation of Trinamool Congress workers in April 2012, to ostracise CPI(M) supporters and workers, this time around he cautioned the CPI(M) against holding rallies if its activists and supporters were to avoid facing public wrath and being “beaten up.”

The remark was reminiscent of the utterances of his colleague in the party and in government, Transport Minister Madan Mitra, at a rally at Bamanghata in Bhangar in South 24 Parganas earlier this month where he had said that the Trinamool could not be held responsible for any attack by the people on CPI(M) supporters. His party was against retaliatory violence; had it not been so “the CPI(M) would be nowhere in five minutes,” he had asserted. 

Mr. Mullick’s remarks were symptomatic of the “politicalisation of the criminal, rather than the criminalisation of politics that his party is responsible for,” said Mohammad Salim, member of the CPI(M)’s Central Committee.

“The utterances only make obvious that the Trinamool Congress now believes the only way it can sustain itself ahead of the panchayat elections is to instigate strife and violence,” he said. 

“It also reflects the jostling among smaller leaders of the party to prove to their leader [Mamata Banerjee] who is the bigger sycophant,” Mr. Salim said, implying that Mr. Mullick was not the only Trinamool leader to indulge in such provocative language.