TMC cries conspiracy as Bengal still on edge
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday any effort to topple her government or steps to silence her will not succeed — remarks that came less than 24 hours after the Union home ministry “strongly advised” the politically charged state to maintain peace and law-and-order.
Attempts are being made to dislodge the government led by the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Banerjee said at the state secretariat on the day governor Keshari Nath Tripathi met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah in the national capital and discussed the situation in West Bengal.
“If the Centre wants to silence me or send me to jail, they won’t succeed. Remember, a wounded tiger is dangerous,” Banerjee said, drawing a sharp response from the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that promptly rejected the charge. In Kolkata, BJP national executive member Mukul Roy said his party had no intention to topple any elected government.
Political killings and clashes between the Trinamool and the BJP have set off alarm bells at the Centre, with the home ministry saying in an advisory on Sunday that “unabated violence over the past weeks” appeared to be a failure on the part of West Bengal’s law enforcement machinery.
Asking Banerjee’s government to ensure that steps were taken to maintain peace, it also requested the state to take strict action against officials found “delinquent in discharge of their duty”.
But on Monday, the body of a 40-year-old BJP worker, Sanatan Dolui, was recovered in Amta area of Howrah, sparking tension in the area. His family demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and alleged that Trinamool-backed goons killed him.
In New Delhi, governor Tripathi had a 40-minute meeting with PM Modi, and later met home minister Shah in his office. Speaking to the media, he said he had “general” discussions about the state.
Two leaders privy to the matter said the Centre was not contemplating imposing President’s rule at the moment, but was keeping a close watch on the situation. Tripathi told Modi and Shah that violence has spiralled after the declaration of the Lok Sabha election results, said one of the leaders.
Tripathi said violence was not limited to a particular district or a region but was being reported from across the state, according to the leader cited above. The governor also said police response to complaints in these cases had been unsatisfactory, he said.
The Centre’s advisory to West Bengal and the state’s response, too, were discussed during the meetings, the second leader said, adding that another “strongly worded’”advisory may not be ruled out.
“The Centre’s advisory asked the state to maintain law and order situation. In rejecting it, isn’t the state government sending a message that it does not want the situation to improve,” the second leader added.
In his reply to the advisory, West Bengal chief secretary wrote to the Union home secretary on Sunday night that there have been “some stray post-poll clashes in the state perpetrated by anti-social elements but law enforcement authorities have been taking stern and appropriate action in all such cases without delay”.
The advisory was issued a day after a Trinamool worker and two local BJP leaders were killed in North 24-Parganas in Basirhat. The BJP said three more of its workers were murdered and five others had gone missing.
In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP made big inroads into West Bengal, winning 18 out of 42 parliamentary segments with a vote share of 40.25%. The Trinamool’s tally stood at 22 seats, and its vote share was 43.28%. The BJP’s show indicated that it could be the main challenger against the Trinamool in the 2021 assembly elections.
“Our stellar show in the parliamentary election has unnerved Mamata Banerjee, and hence this targeted killing of BJP workers in Bengal,” said Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP general secretary incharge of West Bengal, said. The Trinamool leadership, however, has accused the saffron party of fomenting trouble.
BJP supporters observed a “Black Day” in the state, calling a 12-hour bandh in Basirhat subdivision in North 24-Parganas that paralysed life and disrupted the movement of vehicles and trains.
Protests spilled on to the streets of state capital Kolkata where the BJP held demonstrations at three places; the largest of them led by the BJP women’s wing chief and Hooghly parliamentarian, Locket Chatterjee.
In Basirhat, police patrol continued and internet services remained suspended as tension was palpable in the area after Saturday’s violence.