Violence at Shah's Kolkata rally: Trinamool to meet EC, accuses BJP of breaking Vidyasagar statue

BJP and Trinamool supporters fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata on Tuesday during a massive road show by former's president Amit Shah, who escaped unhurt but cut short the rally.

Published: 15th May 2019 08:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2019 08:59 AM   |  A+A-

Police personnel douse burning vehicles caused by a mob during BJP President Amit Shah's election roadshow for the last phase of Lok Sabha polls in Kolkata Tuesday May 14 2019. | PTI

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The TMC Tuesday sought a meeting with the Election Commission over the destruction of a statue of Bengali writer and philosopher Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar during clashes between workers of the ruling party and the BJP.

"Trinamool parliamentary team comprising Derek O'Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Manish Gupta, Nadimul Haque seeks meeting with EC in aftermath of the attack on Bengal's heritage after Shah roadshow in Kolkata. BJP outsider ruffians resort to arson & break Vidyasagar's bust," the TMC said in a tweet.

Earlier, Brien, also TMC spokesperson, took to Twitter and alleged that "violent mob of outsiders" were behind the attack.

Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (BJP) fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata on Tuesday during a massive road show by former's president Amit Shah, who escaped unhurt but was forced to cut short the jamboree and had to be escorted to safety by the police.

Parts of the city plunged into a welter of violence as his convoy was attacked with stones by alleged TMC supporters from inside the hostel of Vidyasagar College, triggering a clash between supporters of the two parties, officials said.

The stones were pelted as Shah's convoy passed through College Street and the arterial Bidhan Sarani on its way to Swami Vivekananda's residence in north Kolkata, a little over 3.5 km from Esplanade in the heart of the city, where it began.

Furious BJP supporters retaliated and exchanged blows with their TMC rivals outside the college entrance.

Several motorcycles parked outside were vandalised and set ablaze.

Shards of broken glass littered the lobby of the college where a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a noted philosopher and a key figure of Bengal Renaissance, was smashed to smithereens.

Police personnel quickly jumped into action, as they tried to douse the fire, while also chasing away the warring groups.

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"There was an attempt by TMC hooligans to attack me. Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal chief minister) tried to provoke violence. But I am safe," Shah told a Hindi TV news channel.

Shah said while clashes erupted police remained a mute spectator.

He said he was told by police that the permission for the roadshow ended near the college and that he would be taken to the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda on Bidhan Sarani.

"They (police) deviated from the planned route and took a way where there were traffic jams. I was not allowed to reach Swami Vivekananda's house to pay tributes and I am saddened by it," Shah claimed.

Banerjee hit right back, calling Shah a "goonda".

"If you lay your hands on Vidyasagar, what will I call you other than a goonda," he told a rally in Behala in the city.

"I hate your ideology, I hate your ways," she said and announced a protest rally on Thursday against the vandalisation of the bust of Vidyasagar.

There was another scuffle when a group shouted slogans against Shah outside the Calcutta University campus and showed him black flags.

Police, however, swiftly brought the situation under control.

Before the clashing mobs took over the streets of central Kolkata, Shah led a saffron surge in parts of the city as chants of 'Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram' alternated with frenzied chorus of 'Modi! Modi!'.

The party's Kolkata north and Kolkata south candidates Rahul Sinha and Chandra Kumar Bose were on the vehicle with Shah, who had to often wipe his face with a towel in the oppressive heat and humidity the city is known for during summer.

Along the way, Shah and his entourage were showered with flower petals by women from terraces and rooftops.

Shah also sprinkled the crowd with flower petals.

Apparently satisfied with the impressive turnout of BJP supporters on Kolkata streets, a rare sight since the defeat and virtual eclipse of the Left Front whose rallies were stuff of legend because of sheer size, Shah declared the BJP will win more than 282 seats in the election, the number of constituencies it had clinched in 2014.

"They (the TMC) killed several of our workers. Nothing can make a party president sadder. Didi (West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee) should know the more violence her party perpetrates the more the lotus (BJP's election symbol) will bloom," he told a national TV channel.

Shah claimed the people of West Bengal have made up their mind to back Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defeat the Trinamool Congress.

Responding to Banerjee's allegation that the BJP had brought people from other states to rig the elections in West Bengal and that saffron party workers in CRPF uniforms were vitiating the poll process, Shah said his party was ruling 16 states and nowhere it adopted such vile tactics.

"I want to assure Didi as much... we will never do anything like that," he said.

Tension was palpable since Tuesday noon, hours before Shah's roadshow began, after posters with images of Modi and him were dismantled by the police, provoking several senior leaders to stage a flash sit-in.

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, the party's pointsman for the northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma, and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan remonstrated.

Vijayvargiya was seen involved in a heated argument with a police officer.

"No democracy exists in Bengal," Pradhan said, adding the people of the state were with Narendra Modi.

"You (the TMC and Mamata Banerjee) are scared of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. But why should you be afraid of their posters?" Sarma said.

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