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Atal calls, state chief silent

Calcutta, May 6: Tapan Sikdar today described yesterday’s attack on him as “pre-planned by a section of CPM workers”.

Even as he made the charge, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government pulled up police in North 24-Parganas. Thirty-four people, including more than a couple of dozen CPM supporters, were arrested today.

The Union minister was assaulted by alleged CPM cadre at Kamarpara in Barasat while on the campaign trail. His car was smashed by a stone-pelting mob.

The BJP leader is recuperating in a hospital in Lake Town. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rang him up twice today to enquire about his condition, but not the state BJP president. Tathagata Roy neither phoned Sikdar nor sent a representative to the clinic.

Sikdar, a former state BJP president, alleged that a section of the “police bosses” had “hatched a conspiracy to kill” him with local CPM leaders. “I demand the police bosses be suspended,” he said.

“As soon as I reached Kaipul village to address a rally, armed CPM members led by two local committee secretaries pounced on my car and some of them threatened to set it ablaze,” he said. He will go to the spot straight from the nursing home tomorrow to address a meeting, Sikdar said.

Muzaffar Khan, a state BJP leader known to be close to Sikdar, said a procession from the Barasat party office will travel to the village where the minister will address the rally.

Home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said a detailed report on the incident has been sent to the Union home ministry. “The state government has taken serious note of yesterday’s attack on the Union minister and action will be taken after the investigation is complete,” he said.

Jyoti Basu regretted the attack. “Even if our party (CPM) activists are involved, they will not be spared,” he said.

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