Malda/New Delhi: A team of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs was on Monday denied permission to visit violence-hit Kaliachak in West Bengal's Malda district, drawing a sharp attack from the party which accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of playing "vote bank" politics and said it will take the matter to the President.
West Bengal's ruling TMC mounted a swift counteroffensive, charging the BJP with "whipping up communalism" ahead of the state assembly election.
A fact-finding team of BJP MPs Bhupendra Yadav, Ram Vilas Vedanti and S.S. Ahluwalia, a BJP member of Parliament from the state, was turned back by the district authorities soon after they alighted the Gaur Express at Malda Town station at 6am citing prohibitory orders. Yadav claimed they were forced to return by Howrah-bound Shatabdi Express.
"This act of West Bengal government is condemnable," Yadav said.
Ahluwalia said the team will request Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to constitute a high-power committee to go into the situation in the area.
"The purpose of the visit was to console the people, to restore their confidence that something like this will not happen in future. Due to pressure from the state government, the district administration said that we cannot go there as Section 144 CrPC has been imposed," Ahluwalia said.
Reacting to the development, senior BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said in Delhi that a party delegation will meet the President in this regard.
The decision to not let the three-member BJP team go there was a "text book example" of Mamata's vote bank politics, Singh, a BJP national secretary, alleged, adding the "dictatorial state government has compassion for criminals but it shows (tamancha) gun to nationalists". TMC immediately shot back.
"The situation in Kaliachak,Malda was tense, but never got out of hand. The police handled the issue tactfully. Thankfully, no deaths occurred, no injuries and 10 people have been arrested", TMC chief national spokesperson Derek O'Brien said in a statement in Kolkata.
Dubbing Kaliachak violence as a 'criminal issue', he alleged, "BJP/RSS, as is their strategy, tried to turn it into communal issue.
They did this by trending hashtags on Twitter, sharing year-old photographs and posting irresponsible tweets with the help of its social media army".
O'Brien said that the BJP was trying for the last one week to present "what I call CIN 100, Communally Insensitive Narrative, 100 days before the state goes to polls.
They follow the same tactic in all election-bound states". Rejecting the government's explanation for the violence that it occurred on account of some issues between the BSF and the locals in Malda district on January 3, he claimed the purpose behind it was to destroy the records allegedly related to a fake currency racket kept in a police station.
"We will meet the Home Minister to seek an appropriate enquiry and also meet the President due to the seriousness of the situation," Singh said.