BJP fact finding team turned back from Malda, move triggers verbal duel

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Malda/new Delhi | Published: January 11, 2016 5:53:54 PM

A team of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs was today denied permission to visit violence-hit Kaliachak in West Bengal's Malda district, drawing a sharp attack from the party...

A team of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs was today denied permission to visit violence-hit Kaliachak in West Bengal’s Malda district, drawing a sharp attack from the party which accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of playing “vote bank” politics and said it will take the matter to the President.

West Bengal’s ruling TMC mounted a swift counteroffensive, charging the BJP with “whipping up communalism” ahead of the state assembly election.

A fact-finding team of BJP MPs Bhupendra Yadav, Ram Vilas Vedanti and SS Ahluwalia, a BJP member of Parliament from the state, was turned back by the district authorities soon after they alighted the Gaur Express at Malda Town station at 6 AM citing prohibitory orders.

Yadav claimed they were forced to return by Howrah-bound Shatabdi Express.

“This act of West Bengal government is condemnable,” Yadav said. Ahluwalia said the team will request Union

Home Minister Rajnath Singh to constitute a high-power committee to go into the situation in the area.

“The purpose of the visit was to console the people, to restore their confidence that something like this will not happen in future. Due to pressure from the state government, the district administration said that we cannot go there as Section 144 CrPC has been imposed,” Ahluwalia said.

Reacting to the development, senior BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said in Delhi that a party delegation will meet the President in this regard.

The decision to not let the three-member BJP team go there was a “text book example” of Banerjee’s vote bank politics, Singh, a BJP national secretary, alleged, adding the “dictatorial state government has compassion for criminals but it shows (tamncha) gun to nationalists”.

TMC immediately shot back. “The situation in Kaliachak, Malda was tense, but never got out of hand. The police handled the issue tactfully. Thankfully, no deaths occurred, no injuries and 10 people have been arrested”, TMC chief national spokesperson Derek O’Brien said in a statement in Kolkata.

Dubbing Kaliachak violence as a ‘criminal issue’, he alleged, “BJP/RSS, as is their strategy, tried to turn it into communal issue. They did this by trending hashtags on Twitter, sharing year-old photographs and posting irresponsible tweets with the help of its social media army”.

O’Brien said that the BJP was trying for the last one week to present “what I call CIN 100, Communally Insensitive Narrative, 100 days before the state goes to polls. They follow the same tactic in all election-bound states”.

Rejecting the government’s explanation for the violence that it occurred on account of some issues between the BSF and the locals in Malda district on January 3, he claimed the purpose behind it was to destroy the records allegedly related to a fake currency racket kept in a police station.

“We will meet the Home Minister to seek an appropriate enquiry and also meet the President due to the seriousness of the situation,” Singh said.

Singh posed five questions to Banerjee related to the incident and claimed Malda had become a major hub of fake currency racket and opium smuggling but the Trinamool Congress government was not taking any action due to its vote bank politics.

“You have taken no action despite knowing it. 80 per cent of fake currency passes through Malda. Opium is produced there and smuggled to Bangladesh. Who do you want to save?” he said, attacking the Chief Minister.

NIA has arrested over 15 people across the country and all of them are connected to the fake-currency racket linked to Malda, Singh alleged.

A huge crowd of over 1 lakh people, he alleged, was massed there by “stoking communal passion” but the state government took no action. He claimed provocative leaflets were also distributed to incite communal tension.

O’Brien, however, rejected the claim that the violence had anything to do with opium trade or fake currency racket.

“We now hear that this morning the (BJP) leaders were now stating this was opium/fake currency issue. This is what we have been saying all along. This is a sensitive issue in a border town and not a communal issue”.

“It is a poor attempt by BJP to make it into a communal incident,” O’Brien said, adding that it was a “criminal and not communal” incident, which was “tactfully” handled so no one was hurt and 10 persons were arrested.

A rampaging crowd had set on fire Kaliachak police station and several vehicles while reportedly protesting against the alleged blasphemous remarks made by a pro-Hindutva leader.

Singh, who is also party’s co-incharge of the poll-bound state, said the protest was held more than a month after those “condemnable” remarks were made, claiming it was not a “spontaneous event but planned action”.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has attacked both the TMC and BJP over the developments, alleging the two were making the state suffer for their narrow political interests.

While Trinamool has provided “patronage” to some fundamentalist elements within the minority community, BJP is trying to inflame passions, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat alleged.

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