BJP president Amit Shah has cancelled his rally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Jhargram in West Bengal. The decision comes amid reports that the Jhargram district magistrate had denied the party permission to land Shah's helicopter near the venue, citing security concerns.
BJP leaders strongly criticised this rejection as Shah's rally at Malda on Tuesday, at which he kick-started the saffron party's Lok Sabha poll campaign in West Bengal, had also been at risk of being cancelled over a similar initial denial of permission. Party leader Vinit Goenka claimed the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government was trying every trick in the book to prevent the BJP from campaigning in West Bengal. Goenka told India Today TV, "This shows that the TMC has sunk to a new low. They want to smother democracy."
However, the BJP did not confirm whether the denial of permission to land a helicopter near the venue was the only reason behind cancelling Shah's rally. Earlier, reports said Shah was heading back to Delhi because of his ill health and was unlikely to attend the Jhargram rally.
His other public rally at Suri in Birbhum district on Wednesday has also been cancelled. Union minister Smriti Irani will now address the rally, said district BJP president Ramkrishna Roy. He said the Birbhum BJP unit had received all required permissions from the state government for the campaign, including one for Irani's helicopter to land at the site.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said: "Amit Shah is very ill. He has high fever, but still attended Tuesday's rally in Malda. He was discharged a few days ago from the hospital after suffering from swine flu."
Ghosh added that Shah's doctors had advised him against attending any other rally, and that he had asked party leaders and workers to ensure that other scheduled rallies take place on time.
A 'chopper controversy' had erupted after the BJP claimed it was denied permission to land Shah's helicopter in Malda, a charged the TMC had denied.
Initially, reports said the district administration had told the BJP that they could not land the helicopter close to the venue of the rally as the airport was being renovated. But the local unit of the BJP had pointed out that the same airport was where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's aircraft lands, and it was constantly used by state government functionaries.
Mamata, however, had countered the BJP's charge, saying, "Permission has been given, but there were security issues. The police had said the chopper should land at some other place. I also change my chopper's landing spot on police request. We have granted permission for the meeting as we believe in democracy. They (BJP) are distorting information and misleading people."
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jan 23, 2019 11:19:40 IST