The West Bengal government has refused permission to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah's proposed 'rath yatra' from Coochbehar on grounds that it might cause communal tension, the state's advocate general informed the Calcutta High Court on Thursday.
Kishore Dutta told the court that the Coochbehar superintendent of police refused permission for the BJP president's rath yatra from Friday. The state submitted that it might cause communal tension. Asked by the judge who will take responsibility if anything untoward happens, BJP counsel Anindya Mitra submitted it is the duty of the state government to maintain law and order.
The advocate general opposed the BJP filing a supplementary affidavit opposing the refusal of permission, saying it can either come with a fresh petition or an amendment to his petition. Shah is scheduled to kickstart the party's "Save Democracy Rally", comprising three rath yatras, in the state.
The BJP campaign is scheduled to begin from Coochbehar district in the north on 7 December, from Kakdwip in the South 24 Parganas district on 9 December and from the Tarapith temple in Birbhum district on 14 December.
Swords drawn between BJP, TMC
The BJP had moved the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday saying it was yet to be given permission for taking out three rallies in West Bengal, scheduled to begin from 7 December. The saffron party claimed before the bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty that several letters sent to the DG-IGP and the home secretary, seeking permission for the three rallies, did not elicit any response.
Responding to this, the West Bengal advocate general Kishore Dutta told the court that the DG-IGP or the home secretary was not the competent authority to grant permission for the rallies, which, as a political party, the petitioner (BJP) should have known. The petitioner should also have known to whom the application should have been sent, he said. Following this, the BJP counsel said they had also applied to the Superintendent of Police of the districts through which the three rath yatras were scheduled to pass. The judge suggested that the state authorities and the petitioner should sit together and sort out the issue before returning to court. Dutta then told the court that the three rallies entailed huge security arrangements and he would require instructions from the state government if it could be done at such a short notice.
BJP president Dilip Ghosh Thursday accused the TMC government of trying to scuttle the voice of the Opposition and dared it to stop his party's rath yatra programme in the state. "From our past experiences we knew that we won't be granted permission for the programme. That is why we had approached the state government nearly a month back for police permission. But they kept on delaying the matter and now at the last moment they are denying us the permission," Ghosh said.
However, the BJP was confident of the rath yatras yielding favourable results for the party. "The Rath Yatra will be a game changer in West Bengal politics. This will kickstart a wave of support in favour of the BJP and will become a deciding factor in the next general elections," BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told PTI. If the rath yatra does take place, it will be the first time the BJP undertakes a political campaign of such a huge magnitude, covering nearly 10,000 kilometres, in the state.
Biggest BJP poll campaign in state
Three air-conditioned buses decorated as chariots carrying Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders will criss-cross the entire state for nearly 40 days starting from 7 December, covering all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah, several top BJP leaders and chief ministers such as Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Raman Singh, Yogi Adityanath, Uma Bharati and Giriraj Singh are also slated to participate in the campaign. The chariots would have pictures of some of the Bengal-born personalities like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Swami Vivekananda. Modi is also likely to attend four rallies to give a thrust to the party's campaign in the state ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. "People will come out on the streets and join our rally irrespective of caste, religion and creed," Ghosh said.
The party's Rath Yatra comes at a time when the BJP has made steady inroads in the state with the saffron party winning more than 7,000 seats in the three-tier Panchayat polls held in May 2018. In several by-elections held since the 2016 assembly polls, the BJP has emerged as the biggest competition to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) by outsmarting the CPM and the Congress. Shah had set a target of winning 22 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Meanwhile, the district TMC had said that it will organise processions by kirtan singers on the same day to counter BJP's rath yatra, PTI reported. The TMC distributed 4,000 pieces of 'khol' and 8,000 pieces of 'kartal', musical instruments used while singing 'kirtans' (religious songs), at Bolpur on Wednesday, they said.
Khol is popular among Vaishnavites in Bengal and Assam and is very similar to 'mridangam', while kartal is a percussion instrument mainly used in devotional and folk songs. The TMC district unit president Anubrata Mondal while distributing the musical instruments told PTI that the Kirtan processions would be held in 19 blocks of Birbhum district and five blocks of neighbouring Burdwan district. Asked by scribes to comment on the Kirtan procession coinciding with the BJP's Ratha yatra, Mondal termed the saffron party's proposed programme a "funeral procession". "There are so many cremation grounds in Birbhum district ... I have faith in religion. We have distributed khols and kartals so that kirtan programmes may be held and devotees can chant the name of God. It is a good programme. "The Kirtan processions will be held to cleanse Birbhum district," he said.
With inputs from PTI
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Dec 06, 2018 15:48:28 IST