The BJP held its first roadshow in Kolkata on Monday. But, the national party’s show of strength did not get off to a smooth start as the police delayed giving permission. It then sanctioned a different route, where at least one shoe was reportedly thrown at the lead vehicle carrying in it top leaders including Kailash Vijayvargiya, Mukul Roy, Arjun Singh and Rakesh Singh. The BJP alleged it was the handiwork of the Trinamool Congress, which dismissed the allegation.
However, the biggest embarrassment was that the star of the show – former TMC minister Sovan Chatterjee who had joined the BJP in August 2019 – did not show up. His partner, Baishakhi Banerjee also skipped the event, meant to “launch” Mr Chatterjee, allegedly because she was not invited properly.
The former Kolkata mayor was recently appointed as BJP’s Kolkata Zone Observer and Convenor, and Ms Banerjee was made the Co-Convenor.
Mr Chatterjee could not attend the rally due to the sudden illness of his friend Baisakhi Banerjee, said news agency PTI quoting BJP sources.
In his absence, BJP senior leaders led the rally that began near the Kolkata Zoo, turned into Diamond Harbour Road and was apparently going round the Kidderpore crossing when it passed a stage beside the road set up by the Trinamool.
At this point, according to the BJP, jeers were exchanged, even some obscene gestures, and then a shoe was hurled at the leaders atop the open hood vehicle they were in.
The shoe did not hit anyone, but BJP leaders have condemned the incident and said it was an attempt by the Trinamool to create trouble. The ruling party in Bengal has denied any role in the incident.
“We (TMC) have other important work to do,” Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim was quoted by PTI in response to the allegation.
Earlier in the day, TMC leaders had called BJP National General Secretary Mr Vijayvargiya a “misogynist” for sharing Ms Banerjee’s picture cooking in a tribal kitchen with the comment: “Didi has already started doing the work she will have to do after 5 months”.
The BJP is the biggest challenge to state Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) founder Mamata Banerjee’s return to power in the West Bengal Assembly polls due in April-May this year.
The BJP has repeatedly attacked the Mamata Banerjee dispensation on matters of employment, pandemic management, corruption and nepotism.
Welcoming TMC rebel Suvendu Adhikari and a number of others to the fold in December last year, Home Minister Amit Shah had said “Didi would be left alone by the time polls come” and reiterated that the BJP would bag over 200 seats in the 294-seat Assembly.
The comment set off a heated exchange between party leaders with TMC poll strategist Prashant Kishor – known for scripting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign – daring the BJP to “even cross double digits” in the Left stronghold.
The two parties have since gone on an overdrive to do roadshows with comments at each becoming shriller.