The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Tuesday engaged in a war of words soon after activists of both the parties fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during a massive roadshow by saffron party president Amit Shah, who escaped unhurt but was forced to cut short the jamboree and had to be escorted to safety by the police.
While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that “outsiders” brought by Shah for his roadshow were behind the unrest, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the state was being run by a “government of gangsters”.
Banerjee asked if he were a God that no one can protest against him. A college named after Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, a key figure in the Bengal renaissance, was ransacked and a bust of the 19th century social reformer shattered allegedly by BJP workers during the clashes.
"What does Amit Shah think of himself? Is he above everything? Is he God that no one can protest against him?" Banerjee told reporters after visiting the Vidyasagar College in north Kolkata.
"They are so uncultured that they have broken the bust of Vidyasagar. They are all outsiders. They BJP had brought them to be used on the day of polls," she said.
There was also a scuffle when a group of people shouted slogans against Shah outside the Calcutta University campus and showed him black flags during the roadshow.
Banerjee also visited the university campus.
"Does he (Shah) know the heritage of the Calcutta University? Is he aware of the famous personalities who had studied here? He should be ashamed of this attack," she said adding that there will be a protest rally on Wednesday.
The TMC leader also criticised the Election Commission for allegedly not taking enough action against the BJP for spending huge amount of unaccounted money in the polls.
"While coming through Bidhan Sarani (a north Kolkata road), I saw such huge cutouts (of Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi). They are spending so much money. Why is the EC not taking action against them?" Banerjee said.
Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajesh Kumar, who too was present with the chief minister at the Vidyasagar College, said more than 100 people have been taken into custody. No one involved in the incident would be spared, he said.
BJP hired goons from Rajasthan, Bihar: Banerjee
The Trinamool Congress alleged that BJP president Amit Shah brought "outsiders" for his road show in Kolkata who were responsible for the violence in the city. “Amit Shah has hired goons from Rajasthan and Bihar to create ruckus in Kolkata. I am not saying all people of Rajasthan and Bihar are goons, but the BJP has hired those who are anti-social. I have never seen such kind of student riots in Kolkata. I am hurt today. It’s unfortunate,” Banerjee told the reporters on the Vidyasagar College campus.
Clashes broke out between BJP supporters and student activists and those of the Left and Trinamool Congress Chatra Parishad (TMCP) during Shah's roadshow.
Officials said 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.
TMC spokesperson Derek O' Brien wrote on Twitter, "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. (sic)."
Trinamool Congress' Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray tweeted, "Hired goons of BJP vandalised Calcutta University and Vidyasagar College, bikes set ablaze, bust of Vidyasagar demolished today during roadshow of BJP President in Kolkata today. What a tribute to Vidyasagar on the eve of his bicentenary (sic)."
Mamata Banerjee be barred from campaigning: BJP to EC
The BJP urged the Election Commission to bar Banerjee from campaigning in the state and alleged that "constitutional machinery" has collapsed there. A party delegation, including Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, rushed to the EC, seeking its immediate intervention to ensure free and fair polls in the state.
Naqvi accused Banerjee of "complicity" in violence allegedly aimed at the BJP, claiming that she has been "provoking" her Trinamool Congress workers to attack the saffron party's functionaries.
"She holds a constitutional post but has been using unconstitutional comments, asking her party workers to take revenge and indulge in violence. She is complicit. She should be immediately barred from campaigning," he told reporters after the BJP delegation met the EC.
The "goons" of the TMC have hijacked the state administration and the violence in Shah's road show is an example of this, he claimed.
The credibility of the commission is at stake, he said, likening the situation in the state to Bihar in 2005 when the EC had sent a special representative to take control of the administration there to ensure free and fair polls.
The BJP also demanded that "miscreants" and "history-sheeters" present in the constituencies, which go to polls in the last phase of the Lok Sabha election on May 19, should be arrested and removed from these places.
Central forces should also carry out flag march in the poll-bound seats, the party told the EC.
(With PTI inputs)