TMC Denies Permission For Amit Shah's Rath Yatra in Bengal; BJP to Appeal on Friday

Throwing a spanner in the BJP's project, the West Bengal government told the high court yatras could create communal tension.

New Delhi: The West Bengal government on Wednesday refused Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah permission to take out a rath yatra on December 7, casting a shadow on its month-long mega political project, according to the Telegraph.

Representing the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, advocate-general Kishore Dutta, told the Calcutta high court the proposed yatra could inflame communal tension in the state. Dutta further informed that the Cooch Behar police had already denied permission for the yatra.

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Responding to the single judge bench’s question about who would take responsibility in case of a law and order situation, BJP counsel Anindya Mitra put the onus on the Bengal government. Mitra said that it is the state government’s duty to maintain the peace. Dutta also opposed the BJP’s attempt to file a supplementary affidavit challenging the permission denial. Dutta said that the BJP can either put up a fresh petition or amend the present one.

Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty observed that security arrangements at such a huge scale cannot be made within such short time. He ruled that the rally stands deferred till the next date of hearing on January 9.

The ruling TMC and BJP have been locked in a bitter contest both at the Centre and in the state. After the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, the BJP hugely benefitted from the electoral decimation and political invisibility of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). From a position of near invisibility, the BJP, over the past four years, has rapidly emerged as the TMC’s primary political opponent.

Aiming to maximise the electoral potential in 2019 elections, the BJP is planning to launch an aggressive state-wise campaign. Shah’s yatra, campaigning on the slogan of Ganatantra Bachao Yatrao (Save Democracy), was meant to be part of the party’s poll outreach.

Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. Credit: PTI

The BJP president was scheduled to launch three separate yatras on December 7. Shah was to kickstart the first of the three segments in Cooch Behar district in northern Bengal December 7. The second segment is to be launched from Sagar in South 24 Parganas on December 9 and the third from Tarapeeth in Birbhum on December 14. The three raths are expected to travel across all 42 constituencies in Bengal.

The party expects a string of high-profile BJP leaders, including chief ministers Sarbananda Sonowal, Adityanath and Biplab Deb to address the rallies. All the three segments will finally culminate in Kolkata in January. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the rally in the city.

Not to be outdone, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already declared that her party will launch a counter ‘Pavitra Yatra’. “This is not any ‘Rath Yatra’, it is ‘Raavan Yatra’. Do you know why? Because it is not a rath inside; there is a 5-star hotel, an AC car, food, lodging inside and to roam around and to have a leisurely time inside that vehicle,” Banerjee said.

Chief Justice refuses to constitute special bench

The Chief Justice of Calcutta high court on Thursday refused to constitute a special bench to hear the BJP’s plea for permission to hold the yatra in Cooch Behar on Friday, after the party failed to get relief from a single bench, party lawyer Phiroze Edulji said.

Lawyers for the BJP went to the chamber of Chief Justice Debasish Kargupta and prayed for constitution of a special bench as the normal court hours had ended for the day, Edulji said.

The chief justice, while refusing a hearing on Thursday evening, asked the BJP lawyers to move the appeal before the court on Friday morning at 10.30 am.

Mamata running ‘dictatorship’: BJP

The BJP accused Banerjee of running a “dictatorship” and playing “politics of appeasement”.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the Trinamool Congress was busy playing “politics of appeasement” and that is why the government blocked programmes of Shah and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat earlier.

“We are often forced to move court for seeking permission. Courts reprimand the state government every time, but she does not learn her lessons because she is busy with politics of appeasement,” Patra told reporters at a press conference.

She is running a dictatorship, he alleged.

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