Cooch Behar/Kolkata (West Bengal) : Political temperatures soared in West Bengal on Thursday after an attack on the state BJP president’s vehicle by miscreants, even as the Calcutta High Court refused permission to the party “at this stage” to hold a rally in northern West Bengal’s Cooch Behar that was slated to be flagged off by party chief Amit Shah on Friday.
Acting on a petition moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that sought the court’s direction to the state government for giving the go-ahead for the “Rath Yatra” rally, Justice Tapabrata Chakrabrorty said the rally stands deferred till January 9 next year, the next date of hearing, after the state government declined to green light the programme, arguing it could trigger communal tension.
Shocked by the high court’s refusal, the BJP leaders rushed to Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta, and later claimed that he has asked them to draw attention of the division bench on Friday morning, when the plea would be considered.
“The matter will be heard at 10.30 a.m on Friday,” said state BJP vice president Jay Prakash Majumdar.
The BJP has chalked out three Rath Yatra rallies, set to touch all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal, and lined up its prominent national leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah for public meetings this month, in its bid to expand its footprint in the eastern state where it is making a frenetic attempt to throw a strong challenge to the ruling Trinamool Congress in next year’s general election.
The BJP’s ambitious plan has triggered a political slugfest, with the Trinamoool, Congress and the Left Front accusing it of hatching a conspiracy to cause a religious polarisation in the state for reaping political dividends.
The heightened political tension took an ugly form on Thursday, as BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh’s convoy was attacked allegedly by Trinamool workers in Sitalkuchi area of Cooch Behar district, after he reached there to participate in the Rath Yatra.
Television grab showed some people, their faces covered with black clothes, beating the vehicles with sticks.
Ghosh escaped unhurt but the vehicles were damaged.
While the district administration said it is looking into the incident, Ghosh blamed the Trinamool Congress for the attack.
“I was attacked for the 10th time. There were Trinamool workers who attacked my car and shouted slogans demanding that I should go back. The police, as always, were mute spectators. Some of my party workers were injured during the violence,” Ghosh said.
The court setback came in the afternoon, when Justice Chakraborty said he cannot grant permission to the BJP “at this stage” to hold the Rath Yatra rally and asked police superintendents of all districts to submit a report within December 21 on the event after hearing all BJP district chiefs.
State’s Advocate General Kishore Dutta contended that the Cooch Behar police superintendent has rejected the BJP’s application for the rally from Friday as it could lead to communal tension in the district which has a history of communal issues.
Dutta also claimed that rowdy elements and “communal provocateurs” have become active in Cooch Behar and the scheduled presence of senior BJP leaders alongside people from other states could cause breach of peace.
The BJP state chief later said in Cooch Behar they are not putting the rally on hold, as all preparations has been completed.
“We have moved the division bench, we are waiting for the hearing there.
“The rally will begin tomorrow (Friday). We had started preparations six months back. We have spent lakhs and crores. Our workers have worked tirelessly for months.
“Amit Shah ji will come tomorrow. We have told him we are ready. Lots of people have reached here. So, we can’t stop the rally at this stage. We are looking at the court. We will decide tomorrow what we will do.”
However, state’s north Bengal Affairs Minister Rabindranath Gosh said if the state BJP chief takes the law in his own hands, the district administration would take action.
Making a vitriolic attack on Dilip ghosh, the Minister said: “He is a ruffian. If the BJP workers come with lathis-sticks, the lathis will be snatched and their legs broken with those. We won’t let our workers to be victims of any violence perpetrated by the BJP.”
Left Front major CPI-M said a riveting drama is on in the state involving the Trinamool government and the BJP.
“The government should have made clear its stand much in advance, why did they drag it? This is intended only to help the BJP,” alleged CPI-M Legislative Party chief Sujon Chakraborty.