BJP, Trinamool lock horns over Modi, Banerjee rally venue in north Bengal’s Cooch Behar
The BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress have entered into another round of spat over a venue for an election rally in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mamata Banerjee will speak on April 7 and 8.
Before the schedule for the Lok Sabha election 2019 was announced, several rounds of controversy erupted in West Bengal over district administration’s refusal to grant permission to public meetings by senior BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and even a rally by Prime Minister Modi.
The BJP’s West Bengal unit has accused the Trinamool of dismantling a structure it erected at a ground in Cooch Behar where the Prime Minister is scheduled to address an election rally on Sunday. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee will also speak at the same venue the next day.
Though the Bharatiya Janata Party has the permission to hold the rally, the Trinamool has been occupying the ground and erected a stage from where Mamata Banerjee will deliver her speech.
Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP’s national general secretary who visited Cooch Behar on Friday, said the Prime Minister is supposed to address a rally on April 7.
“They (the administration) have given permission for another rally (of the TMC) the very next day and they have erected a structure there. They are also saying that they will not dismantle it. If they don’t remove it by 5pm today, we have to decide (our next step),” the BJP leader said.
The BJP’s leaders have urged the administration to dismantle the bamboo structures and said they want to erect their own at the venue.
“Though the TMC is conspiring to foil the Prime Minister’s rally, we will go ahead with the meeting at the same venue and will prove our worth by winning the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat,” Malati Rava, Cooch Behar district president of the BJP, said.
Trinamool leader and north Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh said they too have permission to hold their event at the Raas Mela ground on April 5, 6 and 8.
“The BJP has got permission only for April 7. In fact, the BJP people can’t enter the venue on April 5 and April 6. However, we are ready to allow the BJP to use our structure. But we will not dismantle our structure to make way for them,” Ghosh said.
Kaushik Saha, the district magistrate of Cooch Behar, did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
Officers of the special protection group, responsible for the security of the Prime Minister, held a meeting with the district officials, including the district magistrate and superintendent of police on Friday.
West Bengal is crucial in the BJP’s plan for the Lok Sabha election 2019 and the party has set itself a target of 22 seats in the state. The BJP, which currently holds two seats in the state, has been bolstered with a number of senior Trinamool Congress leaders joining it.
Voting in West Bengal will take place in all the seven phases from April 11 to May 19 and the result will be declared on May 23.