Hours after the Election Commission curtailed the campaigning in nine West Bengal constituencies in the wake of violence between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday launched a no-holds-barred attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah and accused the poll watchdog of being biased towards the saffron party.
“There is no such law and order problem in West Bengal that Article 324 can be clamped. It is unprecedented, unconstitutional and unethical. It is actually a gift to Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah. PM Modi has been given time to finish his two rallies tomorrow,” a combative Mamata said.
The TMC supremo compared the incident to the violence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. “Goons were brought from outside, they created violence wearing saffron. Violence was similar to when Babri Masjid was demolished,” Banerjee said.
No poll campaigning from 10 pm on Thursday: Election Commission
Invoking Article 324 of the Constitution for the first time, the Election Commission barred election campaigning in West Bengal from 10 pm on Thursday following the violence in Kolkata during BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow in the city. Article 324 of the Constitution gives the commission the powers of “superintendence, direction and control” of elections.
“No election campaigning to be held in 9 parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal – Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, South and North Kolkata from 10 pm tomorrow till the conclusion of polls,” PTI quoted the Election Commission as saying.
Expressing anguish at the desecration of the statue of Vidyasagar during the clashes between the BJP and TMC student wing workers outside Vidyasagar College, the poll watchdog said the decision to cut short campaigning in Bengal was taken after reports of violence in last 24 hours.
“This is probably the first time that ECI has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner,” the EC said.
The poll watchdog also ordered the removal of Principal Secretary (Home) and CID Additional Director General Rajiv Kumar from their postings in West Bengal.
“Principal Secretary (Home and Health Affairs) of Bengal government stands relieved from his current charge immediately for having interfered in process of conducting polls by directing WB CEO,” ANI quoted EC as saying.
EC following BJP’s order, says Mamata
As the Election Commission curtailed poll campaign in Bengal by a day, an agitated Mamata Banerjee hit out at the poll panel, alleging it was following the saffron party’s order.
“Election Commission is running under the BJP. This is an unprecedented decision. Yesterday’s violence was because of Amit Shah. Why has EC not issued a show-cause notice to him or sacked him?” asked Mamata.
“Amit Shah today did a press conference, threatened EC, is this the result of that? Bengal is not scared. Bengal was targeted because I am speaking against Modi,” added Banerjee.
The TMC supremo compared the incident to the violence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. (File)Holding Amit Shah responsible for the Tuesday evening violence, Banerjee said, “Amit Shah created violence through his meeting, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar statue was vandalized but Modi did not feel sorry for that today. People of Bengal have taken this seriously, action should be taken against Amit Shah.”
She also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying “one who can’t look after his wife, can’t look after the country”.
Earlier in the day, Banerjee took out a protest rally to condemn the vandalism and destruction of Vidyasagar’s bust on a day TMC and BJP traded charges over the violence at Amit Shah’s rally, hitting national headlines.
Banerjee took out the march from Beliaghata to Shyambazar in the heart of Kolkata and was joined by intellectuals and thousands of supporters carrying party flags.
In Delhi, BJP also held a ‘Save Bengal’ protest, where senior leaders like Nirmala Sitharaman, Harsh Vardhan, Jitendra Singh and Vijay Goel were present. The CPI(M) also hit the streets in Kolkata, slamming both Trinamool and BJP for the violent clashes.
Tuesday’s vandalism incident, which was preceded by clashes outside University of Calcutta’s College Street campus, leaving several injured, has become an emotive issue in Bengal, with Banerjee and several TMC leaders changing their Facebook and Twitter display with a photo of the 19th century social reformer.
While BJP leaders, from Yogi Adityanath to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accused the ruling TMC of “throttling democracy”, Mamata Banerjee found support in TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, who said the saffron party was trying to destabilise the state government.
BJP, TMC release images, videos as blame game continues
Talking about the violence during his roadshow, Amit Shah led the BJP charge against TMC, saying it would have been difficult for him to survive the attack on his convoy without the security provided by the CRPF.
Showing pictures of Tuesday’s violence, Shah alleged that TMC was involved in vandalising Vidyasagar’s bust and unleashing violence during his roadshow. “The idol of Vidyasagar is kept inside the college room. The room was locked, so who had the key? It is the TMC that has captured the college. Destroying the statue of the great educationist for vote bank politics and sympathy shows that countdown of TMC has begun,” Shah said.
On its part, the TMC released videos to claim that “BJP goons” damaged the statue and “hurt Bengali pride”. TMC leader Derek O’Brien also showed an image of a WhatsApp message asking people to come to Amit Shah’s roadshow with rods and arms to fight the TMC and police.
“The students were on a democratic protest with black placards. Goons of Amit Shah from outside Bengal orchestrated the violence. The video establishes Amit Shah is a liar,” O’Brien said. Later, a TMC delegation also submitted the videos as proof to the Election Commission.
Violence at Amit Shah’s rally a revenge attack by TMC: PM Modi
Addressing a rally in Bengal’s Basirhat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the TMC supremo was “power drunk” and her “goons” were bent upon causing destruction.
“Power-drunk Mamata Banerjee is throttling democracy. Didi’s goons carrying guns and bombs are bent upon destruction,” PM Modi said while addressing a rally in Basirhat ahead of the final phase of polling on May 19.
Asserting that Banerjee had destroyed West Bengal’s culture of ‘bhadra lok‘ (gentleman), PM Modi said the violence at Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata was nothing but a revenge attack by TMC.
“Mamata didi had declared publicly two days ago that she will take revenge. She fulfilled her agenda within 24 hours. BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow was attacked,” PTI quoted PM Modi as saying.