A Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) worker, who was injured in police firing in Sunday's Kolkata civic poll, died on Tuesday as Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee labelled him a "notorious criminal", sparking protests.
Bapi Dhar, 43, sustained leg injuries near a polling booth when he was fired upon by a Tripura Rifles constable in the Patuli area in Kolkata's southern outskirts.
The jawan, who had come to the city on poll duty, has been placed under suspension and detained amidst allegations that the firing was unprovoked.
Dhar died early Tuesday following blood loss and cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife and a minor son. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPI-M secretary Biman Bose earlier visited him in hospital.
CPI-M leaders, activists and locals had gathered in large numbers at the hospital ever since Dhar was admitted, and the number grew to several thousands as the news of his death spread.
Makeshift martyr's columns have already sprung up in the locality and other parts of the city mourning his death. Thousands of people accompanied the hearse carrying Dhar's body to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital where the post-mortem examination would be done.
Dhar's neighbours and relatives called him a good samaritan, and an "honest man without any vices".
Striking a different tune, Banerjee Saturday called him a "notorious criminal of the CPI-M" and said: "The policeman had to fire to save his own life."
The reactions to Banerjee's comments were sharp.
"She is fickle-minded. She changes her opinion three times a day. Just as she has done during the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy," said Bose.
Former CPI-M MP Sujon Chakraborty said: "Everyone should condemn Banerjee for what she has said. She has shown her true colours by her comments."
Writer Abul Bashar said he was pained and dumbfounded by Banerjee's statement.
Eminent litterateur Sunil Ganguly also protested against the Trinamool chief's remarks.
The police said there were no records of any criminal activities against Dhar.