Nadda convoy attacked in Bengal, MHA seeks report

The convoy of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president JP Nadda was attacked in West Bengal’s South 24-Parganas district, the party said on Thursday, triggering a sharp rebuttal from the state government and prompting the Union home ministry to seek a report into the matter that turned out to be the latest flashpoint in the politically charged state that will go to polls in early-2021.

The BJP said some of its frontline leaders as well as workers sustained injuries after being assaulted by the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress at Shirakol in Diamond Harbour, the Lok Sabha constituency of Abhishek Banerjee, who is chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew. TV news footage showed stones raining on the convoy and shattering windshields. Vehicles of some media houses were damaged.

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, its national vice-president Mukul Roy and national secretary Anupam Hazra were hit by stones and shards of glass from shattered windows and windshields of their cars, according to the party.

Union home minister Amit Shah and defence minister Rajnath Singh condemned the incident. Both of them called up the BJP president, state leaders said. The home ministry also asked state governor Jagdeep Dhankar to submit a report on law and order situation in the state and steps taken by the Trinamool government to maintain peace.

“The attack on BJP president JP Nadda is condemnable. No matter how much we condemn, it will not be enough. The Centre is taking this very seriously. The West Bengal government will be answerable to the peace-loving people of the state for this,” Shah tweeted in Hindi.

“Bengal has sunk into the darkness of lawlessness and oppression during the Trinamool Congress regime. The manner in which political violence is being taken to its limit in West Bengal it is painful and a matter of concern for people who have faith in democracy,” he added.

Nadda, who visited Diamond Harbour as part of his two-day trip to the state, said West Bengal had plunged into a state of lawlessness, and appealed to BJP workers to ensure the party’s win in the upcoming assembly elections.

The incident took place in the afternoon, when he was on his way to his destination a day after meeting voters in Bhawanipore, the chief minister’s assembly constituency in south Kolkata. “These two constituencies are the fountains of corruption and intolerance,” Nadda said.

The BJP leadership alleged that the attack was planned to foil Nadda’s programme and there were no policemen along the highway connecting Kolkata to Diamond Harbour, a distance of 52 km. But CM Banerjee hit back, saying the attack was staged by the BJP to draw public attention.

“They staged it to show people that they are being attacked. Why did they have 50 cars in the
convoy? I move with only three. What were the cars in the tail
end of the convoy doing? How could videos be made and circulated so fast? What were the central police force personnel, who accompany BJP leaders, doing at that time? I challenge this. I have asked the administration to inquire,” she said.

Responding to this, Nadda said in the evening: “Mamata Ji knows nothing about administration. The central force personnel accompanying us only protect us. They do not stop stone-throwers on the streets.”

Addressing a rally at Arambagh in Hooghly district in the afternoon, Abhishek Banerjee ridiculed Nadda. “Today Nadda fell into a gadda (pothole) at Diamond Harbour. What can I do if common people’s anger finds an expression in outrage? The BJP spreads fear and violence, but in Bengal they have lost balance…”

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim said the BJP did not even inform the state government about the movement of its leaders. “The central government provides security cover to Nadda and other leaders. If they had asked for security cover from us, we would have arranged it,” he said.

The state police said in a statement nothing happened to Nadda’s cavalcade. “Shri JP Nadda, National President, BJP reached safely at the venue, Diamond Harbour, South 24 Pgs. Nothing happened to his convoy. Few bystanders at Debipur, Falta PS, Diamond Harbour PD, sporadically and suddenly threw stones towards vehicles trailing long behind his convoy. Everyone is safe and situation is peaceful. Matter is being investigated to find out actual happenings,” the force tweeted.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had a scheduled meeting with the chief secretary and director general of police at 6pm. “CS @MamataOfficial & DGP @WBPolice called on me today at 6 PM. Unfortunately, neither came with any update on pending issues or regarding attack on convoy of BJP President JP Nadda. Their continued non responsive stance signals failure of constitutional machinery in the State,” Dhankhar tweeted after the meeting.

BJP leaders fanned out across the state to protest against the incident. Roads were blocked at several places. Demonstrators got into a scuffle with policemen in Howrah town. Two police personnel and two BJP workers were injured.

With elections approaching, the political temperature in Bengal is on the rise. The BJP has set a target of winning over 200 of the 294 seats in the upcoming polls in the state, which is often in news for political violence.

In the 2011 assembly elections, the BJP failed to win a single seat and got a vote share of around 4%. In 2016, it did better, winning three seats and bagging a vote share of around 10%. Buoyed by the Lok Sabha performance last year (18 out of 42 seats), the BJP is now focusing on the issues of corruption and nepotism, lack of employment, and law and order in the state.

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