Central Kolkata’s education hub of College Street resembled a battleground on Tuesday evening as clashes broke out between workers of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a road show by saffron party chief Amit Shah.
A section of the crowd broke through the gates of the 147-year-old Vidyasagar College and broke chairs and glass panes and set fire to bicycles and motorbikes. A bust of iconic 19th century reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was also vandalised.
“About 100 persons have been detained. Investigation is on to find out who are responsible. Those guilty would not be spared,” said Kolkata police commissioner Rajesh Kumar, without specifying the number of those injured.
BJP leader Locket Chatterjee alleged that TMC supporters broke the bust, while Shah, after finishing his four-km-long roadshow, attacked chief minister Mamata Banerjee. “Didi, your violence and hooliganism can no more stop the people of Bengal from reclaiming the true legacy of this great land,” he said.
“TMC supporters came out with black flags and mounted attacks on our workers at two places. I was scheduled to visit Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral home after the road show but the police guided my car to a different road,” he added. BJP workers claimed stones first came flying at them from inside the college, and a delegation of party leaders urged the EC to bar Banerjee from campaigning.
But TMC supporters alleged the attack on the college came from the participants in the road show. “BJP supporters who came down from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Jharkhand stormed the campus of Vidyasagar College and vandalised a bust of Vidyasagar. None will be more dangerous than me if Bengal’s heritage comes under attack,” thundered Banerjee at a rally. She, along with education minister Partha Chatterjee, rushed to the college late evening. “What does Amit Shah think of himself? Is he above everything? Is he God that no one can protest against him?” Banerjee told reporters at the college.
The incident is expected to ratchet up tensions in the battleground state, where nine seats go to polls in the last phase of the general elections on Sunday. Bengal has been roiled by violence over the past six rounds of polling, with bombs, bullets and allegations of booth capturing flying thick and fast.
What makes the eastern state important are the 42 seats on offer ( the third highest after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra) that the BJP is eyeing to offset possible losses in northern India, and which are crucial for Banerjee’s national political ambitions.
Tensions began on Tuesday in front of Calcutta University with Trinamool Congress Chattra Parishad (TMCP) workers waving black flags and shouting “go back Amit Shah” slogans before his roadshow passed through. the TMCP workers gathered in front of Calcutta University, BJP supporters gathered on the other side of narrow street.
Shah began his road show from Esplanade in the heart of the city and ended it n north Kolkata. Union minister Smriti Irani and senior BJP leader Sunil Deodhar addressed public meetings at Jadavpur and Kolkata South constituencies, respectively. Flower petals rained from the rooftops on both sides of the streets while thousands took part in the procession, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and waving saffron flags.
Shah stood atop a truck, accompanied by Kolkata North candidate Rahul Sinha, state party president Dilip Ghosh, South Kolkata candidate Chandra Kumar Bose, Union Minister Babul Supriyo and Assam finance minister Himanta Viswa Sarma. Over 100 pickup trucks, decorated with green and saffron balloons, party banners and cutouts of Modi-Shah and carrying enthusiastic activists, followed the rally.
BJP chief Amit Shah said Tuesday that a Bengali will become the chief minister of the state if the party comes to power. “Don’t try to scare us referring as ‘bahari bahari’ (outsider). Neither I nor (party incharge of Bengal) Kailash Vijayvargiya is going to contest elections here. If BJP comes to power, a Bengali gentleman, or lady, is going to be the CM,” Shah told a group of intellectuals here.
Shah urged the audience not to get confused by chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s campaign and said, “No one will come from outside. A Bengali will be the chief minister and all our MPs will be those carrying the fragrance of the soil of Bengal.”
His remarks were a response to the TMC’s allegations that BJP was trying to import north-Indian culture into Bengal
May 14, 2019 23:58 IST