Hours after violence broke out during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata, BJP and TMC engaged in a war of words, holding each other responsible for the incident. While TMC alleged that “outsiders” brought by Shah for his roadshow were behind the unrest, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said West Bengal was being run by a “government of gangsters”.
Calling Shah a “goonda” (goon), West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a protest rally on Thursday against the vandalisation of the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. “If you lay your hands on Vidyasagar, what will I call you other than a goonda. I hate your ideology, I hate your ways,” the TMC supremo said.
Banerjee, however, denied that TMC cadres were involved in pelting stones at Amit Shah’s roadshow. “Is Amit Shah above God that none can protest against him,” she said.
Clashes broke out between BJP supporters and Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) activists after stones were pelted at Amit Shah’s convoy as it passed through College Street. The protest also spilled over to Vidyasagar College in Bidhan Sarani, about two km from Calcutta University, where BJP workers set two-wheelers on fire and vandalised a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
“Desperate BJP goons from outside Bengal smash a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the college. Violent mob of BJP ‘outsiders’ in presence of pukeworthy Shah. How little you know about Bengal, its rich history, its culture. Bengal will never forgive for what you did today,” TMC leader Derek O’Brien tweeted.
Shah, meanwhile, alleged that the Bengal chief minister tried to provoke the violence and TMC hooligans tried to attack him. “There was an attempt by TMC hooligans to attack me. Mamata Banerjee tried to provoke violence. But I am safe,” Shah told a news channel.
Has Bengal acquired a Government of Gangsters? The attack on Amit Shah’s peaceful rally by the TMC is deplorable . Is a free & fair Poll possible in Bengal? All eyes are now on the Election Commission.
— Chowkidar Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) May 14, 2019
The BJP chief further said while the clashes erupted, police remained a mute spectator. “They (police) deviated from the planned route and took a way where there were traffic jams. I was not allowed to reach Swami Vivekananda’s house to pay tributes and I am saddened by it,” Shah claimed.
Condemning the violence, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley wondered if free and fair elections were possible in Bengal. “Has Bengal acquired a Government of Gangsters? The attack on Amit Shah’s peaceful rally by the TMC is deplorable. Is a free and fair poll possible in Bengal? All eyes are now on the Election Commission,” Jaitley said.
“Keep it up Amit Bhai. Only Modi Ji and you can do in Bengal what others failed to realise. Victory is now at an arm’s length distance,” Jaitley added.
Meanwhile, a BJP delegation led by Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi asked the Election Commission to bar Banerjee from campaigning. Saying that constitutional machinery had collapsed in West Bengal, the BJP delegation also sought a flag march by Central forces.
TMC secretary general and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, who visited the college after the violence, said the saffron party had no respect for Bengal’s culture.
Giving details of the violence, Gautam Kundu, principal of Vidyasagar college, said BJP supporters carrying party flags barged inside the institution and ransacked union rooms and offices.
“BJP supporters barged inside the office and started abusing us. They tore papers, ransacked the offices and union rooms and while leaving desecrated the bust of Vidyasagar. They locked the gates and set bikes and motorcycles on fire,” he said.