A scuffle broke out between Left, Trinamool Congress Chatra Parishad (TMCP) and BJP student activists when BJP president Amit Shah's roadshow convoy was passing by the Calcutta University on College Street in Kolkata on Tuesday. Trouble began after stones were pelted at Amit Shah's convoy as it passed through College Street and the arterial Bidhan Sarani on its way to Swami Vivekananda's residence in north Kolkata, a little over 3.5 km from Esplanade in the heart of the city, where it began.
West Bengal: Clashes broke out in roadshow of BJP President Amit Shah in Kolkata after sticks were hurled at Shah’s truck. Police later resorted to lathicharge pic.twitter.com/TSvJMAdemQ— ANI (@ANI) May 14, 2019
A scuffle broke outside the Calcutta University campus on College Street, when student activists of both the Left and the TMCP shouted slogans against Shah, they said.
They showed black flags and waved posters with "Amit Shah go back" written on them. The police controlled the scuffle. A clash took place outside Vidyasagar college and university hostel when TMCP activists threw stones at Shah's convoy, the officials said.
The agitated BJP supporters locked the gates of the hostel and set cycles and motorbikes parked outside on fire. They also threw stones at the building.
A bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidysagar, after whom the college is named, which was outside hostel building was broken by BJP supporters during the clash, the officials said. A huge police contingent was rushed to the spot and controlled the situation, they added.
Hitting out at the BJP over the vandalisation, TMC MP Derek o'Brien tweeted: “Desperate BJP goons from outside Bengal smash statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the college.Violent mob of BJP ‘outsiders’ in presence of Pukeworthy Shah. How little you know about Bengal, its rich history, its culture. Bengal will never forgive for what you did today.”
Desperate BJP goons from outside Bengal smash statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the college.Violent mob of BJP ‘outsiders’ in presence of Pukeworthy Shah. How little you know about Bengal, its rich history, its culture. Bengal will never forgive for what you did today. https://t.co/WrFXP6bmJl— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) May 14, 2019
Contingents of Kolkata Police deployed for the roadshow swung into action and were seen chasing away the warring groups.
"There was an attempt by TMC hooligans to attack me. Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal chief minister) tried to provoke violence. But I am safe," Shah told a Hindi TV news channel.
Shah said while clashes erupted police remained a mute spectator. He said he was told by police that the permission for the roadshow ended near the college and that he will be taken to the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda on Bidhan Sarani.
"They (police) deviated from the planned route and took a way where there were traffic jams. I was not allowed to reach Swami Vivekananda's house to pay tributes and I am saddened by it," Shah claimed.
Banerjee hit right back, calling Shah a "goonda". "If you lay your hands on Vidyasagar, what will I call you other than a goonda," he told a rally in Behala in the city.
"I hate your ideology, I hate your ways," she said, and announced a protest rally on Thursday against the vandalisation of the bust of Vidyasagar. Earlier, there was a scuffle when a group shouted slogans against Shah outside the Calcutta University campus and showed him black flags. Police, however, swiftly brought the situation under control.
Before the clashing mobs took over the streets of central Kolkata, Shah led a saffron surge in parts of the city as chants of 'Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram' alternated with frenzied chorus of 'Modi! Modi!'.
Clad in a kurta-pyjama ensemble and a pink Modi jacket to boot, Shah smiled broadly from atop an open roof vehicle, waving at people and thrusting a clenched fist into air while a massive crowd followed him in the BJP's show of strength five days before the final phase of general election.
A virtual carnival unfolded during his nearly 4-km roadshow from Esplanade to the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda, a journey he could not complete.
Women in traditional Bengali white sarees with red borders, tribals donning the BJP's trademark saffron turbans and carrying bows and arrows danced as the caravan inched through the cramped streets of West Bengal's capital city.
With the state polarised along communal lines like never before during an election, the parade had men dressed like Ram, Hanuman and the 'Vanar Sena', the army of apes that helped the Lord defeat demon king Ravan, according to epic Ramayana.
BJP workers and supporters lined the streets, as did curious onlookers. The party's Kolkata north and Kolkata south candidates Rahul Sinha and Chandra Kumar Bose were on the vehicle with Shah, who had to often wipe his face with a towel in the oppressive heat and humidity the city is known for during summer.
Along the way, Shah and his entourage were showered with flower petals by women from terraces and rooftops. Shah also sprinkled the crowd with flower petals.
Apparently satisfied with the impressive turnout of BJP supporters on Kolkata streets, a rare sight since the defeat and virtual eclipse of the Left Front whose rallies were stuff of legend because of sheer size, Shah declared the BJP will win more than 282 seats in the election, the number of constituencies it had clinched in 2014.
"They (the TMC) killed several of our workers. Nothing can make a party president sadder. Didi (West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee) should know the more violence her party perpetrates the more the lotus (BJP's election symbol) will bloom," he told a national TV channel.
Shah claimed the people of West Bengal have made up their mind to back Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defeat the Trinamool Congress.
Responding to Banerjee's allegation that the BJP had brought people from other states to rig the elections in West Bengal and that saffron party workers in CRPF uniforms were vitiating the poll process, Shah said his party was ruling 16 states and nowhere it adopted such vile tactics.
"I want to assure Didi as much...we will never do anything like that," he said.
Tension was palpable since noon, hours before Shah's roadshow began, after posters with images of Modi and him were dismantled by the police, provoking several senior leaders to stage a flash sit-in.
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, the party's pointsman for the northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma, and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan remonstrated.
Vijayvargiya was seen involved in a heated argument with a police officer. "No democracy exists in Bengal," Pradhan said, adding the people of the state were with Narendra Modi.
"You (the TMC and Mamata Banerjee) are scared of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. But why should you be afraid of their posters?" Sarma said.
(With PTI inputs)