Shah hits out at Mamata as rally fails to take off
KOLKATA/COOCH BEHAR/NEW DELHI: The Calcutta high court on Friday ordered the state chief secretary, home secretary and director general of police to meet Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders by December 12 and decide whether the party’s proposed yatras in the state should go ahead, as the BJP squared off against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) well ahead of the battle for Bengal in next year’s general election.
Modifying an order by a single bench that put all three BJP yatras on hold until January 9, a division bench of the court said the three state officials should meet with, at the most, three leaders from the party and reach a decision by December 14. Incidentally, December 12 is the day after the results of elections in five states are to be declared. Justice Biswanath Somadder gave the directive after a hearing that lasted all day.
In one of the remarks during the debate, the judge asked the counsel for the BJP whether the party in its several letters to the administration mentioned that the meeting they sought was for the yatra. The judges also pulled up the administration, with Justice Somadder using words like “astounding” and astonishing” to describe the attitude of the state government.
State BJP vice-president Pratap Banerjee said the party will wait for the outcome of the meeting.
If, however, the outcome is not to its liking, the party will return to the high court division bench, he said.
“For now, our focus is on the Prime Minister’s rally at Siliguri on December 16. If permission is received before that date, the yatra will begin as well,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to address public meetings at four points along the route of the yatras in Siliguri, Malda, Durgapur and Krishnanagar.
“The court has disposed of the case. The administration will have to hold the meeting with party leaders by Wednesday and inform the court of its decision by Friday,” said Phiroze Edulji, one of the BJP’S lawyers.
The BJP, which has been trying to make political inroads into the state, approached the court after being denied permission by the West Bengal government, controlled by Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, to take out the yatras.
In New Delhi, a combative BJP president, Amit Shah, said Banerjee was “scared” of the party’s expansion into her home turf and that was the reason why her administration had denied permission to the three so-called rath yatras.
“These yatras will definitely happen. She can use whatever force she wants. I will personally go to flag off these yatra. We will not surrender,” Shah told a news conference.
Bengal is a focus state for the saffron camp that has set itself the target of wresting at least 22 out of the 42 Parliamentary seats in the state. Banerjee has vowed to win all 42. In the 2014 elections, the BJP could win just two of the Lok Sabha seats in the state and, two years later, won three of the 294 seats in the assembly polls.
Shah was to flag off the BJP’S Gantantra Bachao (Save the Republic) yatra from Cooch Behar on Friday, but the administration denied the party permission on grounds that it may disturb law and order in the region. The BJP had planned the three so-called ‘rath yatras’, covering most of the 42 parliamentary seats and 294 assembly constituencies in West Bengal over the next one-and-a-half months.
Jurapani area within Dhupguri police station limits in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district turned into a battlefield on Friday afternoon when Cooch Behar-bound BJP supporters clashed with the police. The additional superintendent of police of Jalpaiguri district was also injured. The clash ensued when policemen blocked the way of buses carrying BJP workers and moving towards the spot of a public meeting about 4 km from Cooch Behar town. A total of 20 policemen were injured, said an officer at Dhupguri police station who did not want to be named.
“I have been to West Bengal 23 times after 2014. Several union ministers and even the prime minister has addressed a public meeting. Let Mamata Banerjee show even one case where the law and order situation was disturbed after our rally,” Shah said.
Shah claimed the BJP had written to the home secretary and the director general of police on October 29, seeking permission, but they did not act. The party, he said, sent reminders even on November 5, 12 and 20. Separate letters were sent to the police chief on November 14, 20 and 23.
Mounting a scathing attack against the Banerjee government, he also alleged that the state led in the number of political killings in the country.
“She is losing sleep over the BJP’S expansion in the state,” he said. “In a state where one used to hear Rabindra Sangeet earlier, now we hear bomb blasts,” he said.
Shah also offered Mamata Banerjee some unsolicited advice. “She didn’t ask for it... yet I will give her some advice... Stopping the BJP yatra will not help her but will only make peo-
Amit Shah (left) and Mamata Banerjee.