The BJP is looking for private grounds to hold a rally by Union roadways minister Nitin Gadkari in the heart of Malda town in north Bengal after it became clear a hostile state government was in no mood to let the event go ahead.
Gadkari was supposed to address the rally on January 18 as the party ramps up its attack on the Trinamool Congress government in the aftermath of the violent mob ransacking in the district’s Kaliachak town earlier this month.
But after the district administration prevented two teams of the BJP -- one on January 7 and the other on January 11 -- from reaching Kaliachak, party leaders became certain they wouldn’t get any ground for the minister’s programme.
They also allege local officials – who argued the BJP’s presence would jeopardise the area’s fragile peace – had denied them permissions for the event.
“We are looking for a privately owned ground. On January 7, in the presence of Samik Bhattacharya, our MLA, the district magistrate of Malda assured us he would permit us to organise our rally in the heart of the city and accordingly it was decided that the rally would be organised either at DSA ground or at Brindabani ground. However, on the evening of January 10 he told us that he can’t issue any permission at all,” Ajay Ganguly, a BJP leader of Malda told HT on Monday.
District BJP leaders told HT they have been able to locate a ground that can accommodate about 30,000 people.
“We have talked to a person who has owns a big ground at Sahapur in Old Malda. The ground can accommodate at least 30,000 people but we are not sure whether he will be able to offer it as the administration and ruling party can put pressure on him,” Ganguly said.
But the party has no back-up plan as of now.
BJP state secretary, Sayantan Basu, told HT that they have requested the railway ministry to allow them to hold the meeting on a ground that belongs to the railways. “We are trying to finalise the railway ground. It is almost obvious that the district administration won’t allow us,” said Basu.
On January 3, a mob of thousands vandalised and set fire to the Kaliachak police station and several vehicles parked inside the campus and on the roads nearby.
They gathered on the pretext of a religious protest against a remark by a saffron leader made on December 1 in Lucknow.
BJP decided to visit the spot to take a stock of the situation. Accordingly on January 7, Samik Bhattacharya, the lone BJP MLA in the state, was arrested when he tried to reach the area. He was later released on a personal bail bond.
On Monday a five member team -- including three MPs -- also went to Malda for visiting Kaliachak on a fact finding mission. But they were stopped as they got down from a train in the morning, and after an argument for about two hours with the district magistrate and police officers, forced to board a Kolkata-bound train.
“Due to the pressure of the state government, district administration said section 144, one cannot enter that area (Kaliachak),” said SS Ahluwalia, BJP MP from Darjeeling.
(additional reporting by Ravik Bhattacharya)