BJP leader allegedly thrashed to keep party out of Durga Puja on TMC’s Kolkata turf
Three days after organisers of a community Durga Puja held close to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s south Kolkata residence shelved plans to invite a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader at the inauguration, a second organiser in the same area faced the wrath of Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Tuesday night.
Organisers of the Durga puja held by Adi Dakshin Kolkata Baroari Samity near Rashbehari Avenue held a meeting with BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu and the party’s local trade union front leader Ajay Agnihotri inside the community club on Tuesday evening.
Shortly after Basu left, a large crowd comprising TMC workers arrived and staged a blockade, forcing Agnihotri and his associates to lock themselves inside the club for around two hours.
A police contingent rushed to rescue Agnihotri but he and his associates were allegedly thrashed. The police took them to Tollygunge police station for their safety. TMC workers arrived at the police station as well and tension prevailed till late in the night. Agnihotri could go home only after the crowd dispersed.
“I was thrashed. Two of the policemen who came to rescue us received a few blows as well. We were invited by the puja organisers. A mob attacked us soon after Basu left the club. This cannot happen in a civilised society,” said Agnihotri.
Local TMC leader Biplab Sarkar said the puja is organised entirely by local residents.
“It never had anything to do with the BJP. The puja committee members invited BJP leaders without anybody’s consent. This is an effort to take over the festival,” Sarkar alleged.
Officers at Tollygunge police station refused to comment, saying it was not a major law and order problem.
After the BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the April-May elections, around 70 community Durga puja committees from Kolkata and the districts have approached state BJP leaders with requests to have top leaders inaugurate their pujas. Many committees have requested the presence of BJP president Amit Shah or state president Dilip Ghosh.
One of the puja organising clubs that approached the BJP is Sanghashree, located within 500 metres of Mamata Banerjee’s residence in Kalighat. Till last year, the chief minister’s brother, Kartick Banerjee, was an honorary member of the puja committee.
This year the organisers wanted Amit Shah to inaugurate the puja. They also met Sayantan Basu and made him a member. However, on Saturday the club members made a U-turn and said they did not want any association with the BJP.
Senior TMC leaders, many of whom are either organisers or patrons of some big-budget pujas, are accusing the BJP of politicising the festival.
“Durga Puja should be left out of politics. It is an integral part of Bengal’s culture. They (BJP) have become desperate,” state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, who has been closely associated with Ekdalia Evergreen Club’s puja, one of the biggest crowd-pullers, said last week.