BJP president Amit Shah will launch the saffron party’s election campaign in West Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections at a rally in Malda today.
However, both the BJP and the Mamata Banerjee government have launched war of words against each other ahead of Shah’s rally.
While the BJP on Monday accused the West Bengal government of denying permission for the landing of a helicopter carrying its president Amit Shah at an airstrip in Malda on Tuesday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee dismissed the charge and said that it was “absolutely not true”.
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Hitting out at the state government, Union Minister Piyush Goyal claimed that it showed Banerjee was “scared” of his party’s growing influence in the state.
“The desperation and fear of the Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee are clearly visible in this decision. The state government is trying to block every programme of Amit Shah, be it a rally, yatra or the landing of his chopper,” he told reporters.
Goyal also sought comments from opposition parties like the Congress on the matter, saying if a BJP government had obstructed political programmes of rival parties’ leader, then it would be accused of “intolerance”.
In Kolkata, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told PTI, “The administration has denied permission for landing at Malda airstrip citing reasons of construction work there. However, no such construction is being conducted at Malda airport.”
Denying the allegation, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “For helicopter landing police gave all the permission. That’s (the accusation) wrong.”
“They are distorting and misinforming the people. It is absolutely not true,” Banerjee told reporters at the Kolkata airport before leaving for Siliguri.
Malda district BJP president Sanjit Mishra said Shah will land at Bagdogra airport from where he will take a helicopter to Malda. He would reach Narayanpur, where a temporary helipad has been constructed for landing of his helicopter.
The chief minister said only the place of landing has been changed for safety and security reasons.
“As per police request they even change my helicopter landing. They have granted all the permissions for the meetings because we believe in democracy. They have asked for permission at different places and we have given all the permissions,” Banerjee said.
Shah, who has just recovered from swine flu, is scheduled to address a rally in Malda Tuesday. The next day he will address rallies in Jhargram and Birbhum districts.
The rallies come close on the heels of a mega public meeting organised in Kolkata’s Brigade Parade ground by the Trinamool Congress in which all top opposition leaders from across the country were present.
When contacted, a senior official of the state police said, “This (allegation of refusal of permission) is incorrect, there were some security-related issues because of some ongoing construction work at the helipad. The matter is being processed and no objection is being given.”
Reacting to BJP’s claims on the permission, a senior Trinamool leader said the allegations against the state government are baseless and the BJP is trying to make an issue out of nothing.
“We will see what exactly happened. The district police administration might have taken the call after looking at every aspect,” the Trinamool leader said.
The BJP also claimed that permission for the venue of Shah’s rally in Birbhum district’s Suri was denied by the authorities. A party leader said permission was denied for all the grounds in the area citing that they were already booked on that day.
The BJP will hold the rally on a land owned by a party leader.
BJP Birbhun district vice president Kaloshona Mondal said his agriculture land along with that of some others at Suri were being used for the rally and constructing a helipad.
“The district administration denied permission for the public grounds that we had applied for, saying that those were already booked,” Mondal said.
The party had planned ‘Rath Yatras’ touching all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state but was denied permission by the state government and has since been caught in legal tangles.
It is now focusing on the series of rallies, which are to be addressed by Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The prime minister is scheduled to address a couple of public meetings in the state in the next few weeks.
BJP has identified West Bengal as a priority state and Shah has set a target of winning 22 seats in the general elections from here.
(With PTI inputs)