Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Trinamool Congress were involved in a scuffle on Monday afternoon during a door-to-door campaign of saffron party leader Dilip Ghosh, The Indian Express reported.
The incident took place near the Jadubabu Bazaar area in South Kolkata, where Ghosh was campaigning for the Bhabanipur bye-polls scheduled to take place on September 30. The BJP has fielded Priyanka Tibrewal against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the seat in South Kolkata.
Soon after Ghosh began his campaign, Trinamool Congress supporters started protesting and shouting slogans against him, News18 reported. A scuffle ensued as Ghosh’s security guards and BJP supporters retaliated.
As the situation escalated, Ghosh cut short the event.
Sukanta Majumdar, the chief of BJP’s West Bengal unit, claimed that Ghosh was “kicked, pushed and heckled” by Trinamool Congress supporters.
In a video posted on social media by Ghosh, he can be seen being pushed by a group of people while his security guards try to protect him. One of the guards also pointed a gun at the group of people.
“How safe is the life of the common man in this state when [a] public representative is being attacked in Bhabanipur, the home turf of madam chief minister [Mamata Banerjee],” Ghosh said in a tweet.
“I was also attacked,” Ghosh said, according to ANI. “My security tried to stop it and they brought out their guns to scare the attackers.”
He claimed that BJP MP Arjun Singh was forced to leave the area amid “go back” slogans.
“[The] Election Commission is aware of everything,” he said. “We’ve complained to them several times in Delhi and Kolkata. Despite this, no security arrangement was made. There is no point to hold polls if we can’t reach out to voters.”
Tibrewal blamed Banerjee for “instigating attacks” for the sole purpose of “maintaining her post”.
“She doesn’t care about the lives of civilians,” Tibrewal said. “She only loves her seat.”
BJP member Bhab Narayan Singh reportedly got injured and he was bleeding from his head, The Indian Express reported. However, the police has not yet given an official statement on the matter.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said that the protest against Ghosh was a “spontaneous” one as a result of the “derogatory statements” he had made against Banerjee earlier.
Ghosh had courted controversy in March by suggesting that Banerjee should wear bermuda shorts instead of a sari if she wished to show her injured leg during campaigning ahead of the West Bengal elections.
The West Bengal chief minister had sustained a leg injury while campaigning in Nandigram. She had held several election rallies on a wheelchair.
Soon after Ghosh was criticised for his comment, he had said that it was inappropriate for women to show their legs while wearing a saree.
On Monday, the Trinamool Congress also tweeted a clipping of a news channel report of the incident and criticised Ghosh’s security guards for pointing guns at the protestors.
“How dare a gun be aimed at public in broad daylight?” Trinamool Congress asked in a tweet. “Do people not have the right to protest against leaders they do not support? Such blatant violation of human rights is shameful! This compromises the safety and security of people in Bhabanipur!”
A delegation of BJP leaders met Election Commission officials in Kolkata on Monday evening to raise their concerns about the incident, ANI reported.
Party MP Swapan Dasgupta told reporters that they have demanded imposition of restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Bhabanipur till the election is completed. The party has also demanded that Central Armed Police Forces be deployed in the area. Earlier, Ghosh had demanded that the bye-poll should be deferred.
The Election Commission has sought a report on the incident from the state government, PTI reported.
The Bhababipur bye-elections were necessitated after Banerjee lost the Nandigram seat to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in the West Bengal Assembly elections held in March-April this year. However, she took oath as the chief minister for a third term as the Trinamool Congress won a clear majority.
As per the rules, Banerjee needs to get elected as an MLA within six months of her taking oath. Senior Trinamool Congress leader Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who had won the Bhabanipur constituency in the Assembly elections, vacated the seat so that Banerjee could contest.
Monday was the last day of campaigning ahead of the bye-elections on September 30. The result of the bye-polls will be announced on October 3.