BJP rath yatra stopped for 3rd time in Bengal’s Murshidabad
- The BJP planned five roadshows in the run-up to the assembly polls due in April-May.
By Sreyasi Pal
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday had to stop its rath yatra, a grand pre-election roadshow christened 'Parivartan Yatra' (journey for change), for the third time in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.
The incident took place at Manigram in the Sagardighi police station area, BJP leaders alleged. No police officer from the area was willing to comment despite repeated queries.
The BJP planned five roadshows in the run-up to the assembly polls due in April-May. Four of these have been flagged off. The roadshows will pass through the state’s 294 assembly constituencies of which the BJP has sworn to win at least 200.
BJP leaders present at the roadshow in Murshidabad claimed that the police stopped them saying supporters of the 12-hour general strike called by the Congress and Left parties had blocked the road but they could not see any mass agitation in progress.
The strike was called in protest against baton charge and use of tear gas shells during an agitation in Kolkata and Howrah by youth and student fronts of Bengal’s Left parties, including the CPI(M), on Thursday.
BJP's Murshidabad (north) unit president Sujit Das said, "The local police were aware of the route. They stopped us and said that some bandh supporters had blocked the road. But we could not see any blockade. We were later told that some local people were offering Friday prayers on the thoroughfare.”
Bengal’s Muslim population stood at 27.01 per cent during the 2011 census and is projected to have increased to around 30 per cent now. At 66.28 per cent, the population is highest in Murshidabad district.
On Friday afternoon, the vehicles in the roadshow travelled from Jangipur to Sagardighi assembly constituency. These were allowed to proceed after about two hours. There was an altercation between the police and BJP leaders. The BJP leaders, including Rajesh Kumar from Uttarakhand, got off the leading bus, referred to as the rath or chariot, and walked for three kilometres.
Das alleged that the police were making excuses to stop the roadshow in Murshidabad. "Every other day they are coming up with some new excuse,” he said.
Gautam Ghosh, the Murshidabad district spokesperson of Trinamool Congress (TMC), said, “The BJP is trying to mislead people through these roadshows. Only a handful of people are participating in it. So, the party is creating some drama to make news. If the administration stopped the roadshow there must have been some valid reason.”
This was the third time the BJP had to either stop the roadshow or change its route in the district.
On Tuesday, the police asked the party to change its route in view of chief minister Mamata Bannerjee’s election rally. The TMC chief on Tuesday started her two-day tour of Murshidabad, Malda, North Dinajpur and East Burdwan, the districts with the highest Muslim populations in Bengal.
On Monday, BJP workers held agitation for almost two hours at Beldanga after the police stopped the roadshow. The BJP wanted the roadshow to pass through Beldanga, Nowda and Hariharpara but was told to follow NH-34 instead. BJP leaders were told that there could be communal tension if the roadshow passed through these regions since Muslims comprise a major chunk of the local population.