West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of falsely claiming that her government had denied permission for a helicopter carrying the party’s national president Amit Shah to land in Malda for a political meeting, ANI reported. She said the district administration had merely suggested another landing site because of construction work at the original spot.
Banerjee said authorities could not grant permission to the BJP chief to land in Malda airport over security concerns. “I also change my chopper’s landing on police request,” the Trinamool Congres leader said. “We granted permission for a meeting as we believe in democracy. They [BJP] are distorting information and misleading the people.”
Shah is scheduled to arrive in Kolkata on January 22 and travel to Malda to address a public rally. The party’s president was discharged from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on Sunday after being treated for swine flu.
The Malda district administration had refused him permission to land at the district airport, saying that work was being carried out to upgrade the facility, ANI reported. “A large quantity of fine sand, dust and other materials is lying all along the runway and also stacked all around the site,” Malda’s additional district magistrate was quoted as saying.
However, a report by India Today said that the site was clean. An employee identified as Dipali Das was quoted by the news website as saying that there was no construction material on the runway and that a chopper service operated from there every week.
The BJP has accused the Banerjee administration of resorting to falsehood and abuse of power, ANI reported. “Mamataji’s helicopter landed few days ago at the same helipad,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “Some journalists went there. I have pictures. The space is neat and clean. Helicopters are landing and can land.”
Meanwhile, the BJP has sought permission from the Border Security Force to use their helipad for Shah’s arrival, India Today reported.
In Malda, the BJP’s district president Sanjit Mishra accused Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress of trying to thwart his party’s activities. “The state government uses this airport and there are helicopters landing here regularly,” Mishra said. “But the rules have changed when we asked permission.”
The development follows a Supreme Court order on January 15 prohibiting the BJP from conducting a rath yatra in the state but allowing the party to conduct meetings and rallies. Shah was initially scheduled to launch a rally in Cooch Behar on December 7. The Trinamool Congress-led government on December 15 had refused permission for the yatra, citing intelligence reports that warned of possible communal violence in areas where the rath intended to travel.