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A DAY AFTER sweeping the Assembly elections and returning to power for the third time in a row, Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee said fighting and defeating Covid were her top priorities now and demanded that the Centre provide free mass vaccination across the country.

Banerjee has submitted her resignation to West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and will take the oath of office on May 5. She had met the newly elected members earlier in the day at Trinamool Bhavan, where she was elected the legislative party’s leader.

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“Due to Covid, the party decided that I will take oath on May 5 alone,” Banerjee said before meeting the Governor. “After the newly-elected members take their oath in the Legislative Assembly, other ministers will be sworn in,” she explained.

During a press conference at her Kalighat residence, the Trinamool chief said, “I am a street fighter. I will consolidate all anti-BJP forces for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.” All I can do is encourage people to unite and fight in 2024. I believe that by working together, we can win the battle for 2024. But for the time being, we must battle Covid-19. We must first defeat it. Then we can talk about everything. We can hold a Brigade rally and invite leaders from other states.”

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Mamata Banerjee said she was open to working with the Centre after a bitter and bruising election campaign in which she faced off against the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. She did point out, however, that after the victory on Sunday, Modi did not call her, despite the fact that several regional leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, Uddhav Thackeray, Naveen Patnaik, Akhilesh Yadav, Rajnikant, and Tejashwi Yadav, did.

While fighting Covid was a top priority, the Trinamool Chief claimed that vaccines were in short supply and that some states were receiving more vaccines than others. “Rs 30,000 crores is not a huge sum for the Centre; 140 crore Indians should be given free vaccines from the Centre,” she said, demanding free universal vaccination. Vaccines for everyone should be available.”

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The people of Bengal, Banerjee said, deserve credit for defeating the BJP. “Bengalis have a strong spine. Our young women and men led us in the right direction. The people of Bengal have won a victory. The victory of Bengal is known as ‘Banglar joy.’ Without the help of the Election Commission, the BJP would not have reached 50 seats,” Mamata Banerjee stated.