Shah hits out at Mamata as rally fails to take off

Hindustan Times (Noida) - - METRO - Su­manta Ray Chaud­huri, Snigdhendu Bhattacharya and Ku­mar Ut­tam let­[email protected]­dus­tan­

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.

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