Balurghat, Feb. 26: A Congress leader was shot in front of his house on the outskirts of Balurghat town this afternoon by a gang in a car.
Congress leaders said Litan Mahanta, who is the general secretary of the Balurghat rural Congress and a good organiser, had been threatened by Trinamul earlier. The Congress accused Trinamul of today’s attack, in which Mahanta took bullets in his head, arm and stomach.
Trinamul has denied the charge and said it was a intra-party fight in the Congress that led to the shooting.
A surgeon in the Malda nursing home where 37-year-old Mahanta is admitted, said he was in a critical condition.
“He will have to undergo a surgery,” said Nilanjan Roy, the South Dinajpur district president of the Congress.
Sources said Mahanta was chatting with his friends in front of his house at Hossenpur along the Balurghat-Hili state highway near Balurghat town when a Maruti van halted near him. “Around 1.30pm, some persons came in a Maruti van. They got off the vehicle, walked to Mahanta and fired shots at him at point-blank range and sped away,” said a Congress source.
It is not clear how many persons had fired the shots. The sources said there were around five persons in the car that sped away in the direction of Hili after the attack. The local people took the Congress leader, drenched in blood, to the district hospital in Balurghat from where doctors sent him to a Malda nursing home.
Mahanta had contested unsuccessfully on a Congress ticket to the Balurghat panchayat samiti in the last elections.
“Mahanta is very popular in the locality. We have reports that Mahanta was threatened a number of times before as he raised voice against corruption by Trinamul. The attack was carried out by Trinamul’s goons as the ruling party is losing ground in Balurghat. Trinamul’s base is eroding here and the party is apprehending a setback in the coming Parliament election,” said district Congress chief Roy.
Trinamul denied the charge. “We have heard the district president of the Congress saying that our party was involved in the attack on Mahanta…. Police know everything about Mahanta and let them say if he is a gentleman or an antisocial. Mahanta was shot at because of differences within the Congress,” said Prabir Roy, the Balurghat block president of Trinamul.
Bipal Banerjee, the inspector-in-charge of Balurghat police station, said: “The preliminary information is that he was shot thrice. The investigation is going on.”