Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had a close shave when suspected Maoists triggered a mine blast near a road in West Midnapore district on Sunday, minutes after their convoy had passed by. The two were on their way to Salboni to inaugurate the Jindal steel plant, the largest in the country.
Six police personnel in a pilot car at the rear of the convoy were injured. Such was the impact of the mine that it left a crater over a few feet wide and nearly one-foot-deep. Splinters flew in all directions, injuring a pedestrian.
Police are probing whether it was an assassination attempt or or a warning to the state administration. The incident has come as an embarassment to the police, since the Maoists planted an explosive on such a heavily guarded zone.
IG (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said: “The blast took place at Baruahati, 10 km from Salboni, five minutes after the convoys of Bhattacharjee, Paswan and other VIPs — on their way to Kolkata from Salboni — had passed. A Maruti Gypsy was damaged. It was a mine blast triggered by suspected Maoists.”
According to the police theory, the mine was hidden on the right side of the road while the attackers waited to trigger it two km away.
He had a wire, one end of which was connected to the mine. As soon as he completed the circuit, the mine went off. A more serious modus operandi is also suspected as there was a high-tension overhead wire that snapped when hit by splinters. They suspect there could have been a plan to snap the wire with the blast and electrocute more than one car.
A high-level committee comprising the DG (security) has been formed to probe the incident.
Paswan wrote to PM Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil while his party, the Lok Janshakti Party, demanded immediate upgradation of his security cover in view of threat to his life. Paswan has received death threats from Naxalites and his ancestral house in Bihar was reportedly attacked in the recent past.