West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her finance minister Amit Mitra were on Tuesday the target of the ire of CPI-M and its students' wing activists with protesters manhandling the minister outside the Planning Commission in New Delhi.
A group of about 150 protesters from CPI-M and SFI ambushed the chief minister and other ministers including Amit Mitra when they arrived at the Planing Commission complex around 3.45pm for annual state plan discussion.
Banerjee, who was advised by police not to get down from her car and drive inside, however, chose to walk through the slogan-shouting and placard-wielding crowd into the building.
While the chief minister was immediately shielded by policemen, it was left to Mitra's lot to face the anger of the activists who were protesting the death of a SFI member Sudipto Ghosh in police custody in Kolkata last week.
As SFI and CPI(M) members chanted "Mamata Banerjee hai hai (Mamata down down), TMC hai hai, Hatyari Mamata sharm karo (have shame, killer Mamata)", an agitated chief minister walked into the building shouting that "this is uncivilised behaviour". More: Amit Mitra complains of chest pain, hospitalised
The 65-year-old finance minister was pushed and jostled around as he tried to enter the Yojna Bhawan building. A woman protester thumped him twice on his chest and his kurta was torn in the melee.
An angry Banerjee later vented her anger at minister of state for planning Rajiv Shukla and deputy chairman Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
"You have created a new precedent here. My minister was assaulted. This is scandalous. There were 20 hooligans. Can you stop development of this state like this...Delhi is not safe," she told them.
Banerjee also lashed out at Delhi Police for "poor" arrangements.
Shukla told reporters later that the government condemns the incident in "strongest possible words" and that the Plan panel officials have already taken up the issue with the Delhi police.
Later after the meeting, Banerjee claimed that the activists tried to hit her with an iron rod but was saved.
"I never expected this type of hooliganism. I have a right to meet my Prime Minister, my Finance Minister, the Planning Commission...if such things happen then Planning Commission cannot organise meetings," she said.
SFI general secretary R Bannerjee denied that the protesters manhandled Mitra.
"It was a militant but peaceful protest. We did not manhandle anyone or tore their clothes. We want a judicial probe into the murder of Gupta. We will protest everywhere Bannerjee goes," he said.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee condemns assault
Former West Bengal chief minister and CPI-M politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also condemned the heckling of Amit Mitra and blocking passage of Mamata Banerjee by SFI activists in Yojna Bhavan in Delhi.
"I strongly condemn the incident. I wonder what kind of politics it is. This is a wrong politics," Bhattacharjee said in a statement in Kolkata.
He said nobody would support the incident "which is condemnable".
Meeting with PM cancelled
Meanwhile, a crucial meeting between Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, scheduled for Tuesday evening, was cancelled at the last minute against the backdrop of her anger over protests by Left activists she faced at the Planning Commission.
Sources said Banerjee sought cancellation of the meeting, saying she was unwell and her blood pressure had dipped.
"Today's meeting has been cancelled. We will ask for a new date to meet the Prime Minister," sources close to Banerjee said.
Banerjee will be in Delhi till Thursday but no meeting is expected now as the Prime Minister is leaving tomorrow morning for Germany and will return only on Friday night.
Trouble began for the Mamata Banerjee government when a 22-year old SFI leader died in 'police custody' while he was being taken in a bus along with other SFI supporters who were arrested by the police following a pre-scheduled law violation programme at Esplanade.
The former student of Netaji Nagar College, Sudipta Gupta, was being taken to Presidency Jail lock up, where he would have been given bail along with his fellow agitators by the trying magistrate according to practice.
He was arrested from Rani Rashmoni Road, a distance of about 3 kms.