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Probe on, Anubrata wary

March 15: Birbhum Trinamul chief Anubrata Mondal today told party activists to offer bouquets to Opposition members if they hurled bombs at them, the comments indicating the strongman was playing safe to escape possible action by the Election Commission.

The poll panel is probing a complaint that Mondal delivered a provocative speech last week and has sought video footage of the rally. Mondal had allegedly said the Opposition was like “rats that must be killed”.

Before last year’s rural polls, too, Mondal had been accused of a provocative speech that preceded the murder of a Trinamul dissident’s father.

At a rally in Burdwan’s Ketugram today, he said: “If CPM or Congress activists hurl bombs at you, I request you to go to their homes and gift them flower bouquets.”

He added: “The CPM had alleged during earlier polls that it could not deploy election agents in many places in Birbhum. If there is such a problem this time, I request the party to appeal to us in writing and we will make the necessary arrangements.”

However, Mondal also made comments that could be construed as a veiled provocation.

“The soil of Ketugram is good, excellent for crops. But there are a lot of weeds here. Now that our government has provided enough lights in the area, you can clearly see the weeds. The area must be cleaned up soon,” he said.

A commission official said footage of the Ketugram rally could be sought, too. “We are probing the case of Mondal as a habitual offender who has the tendency to make hate speeches. A decision on him will be taken early next week,” he said from Delhi.

Although Mondal had courted controversy earlier too, Trinamul has not taken action against him. At a party conference in Durgapur last month, Mamata Banerjee had said she would “always stand by Keshto (Mondal’s nickname)”.

The poll panel is also looking into Mondal’s alleged promise of cash rewards to Trinamul committees that would ensure high victory margins for party candidates in Birbhum.

“If the commission initiates action against Keshto, not even Didi can save him. That’s why he is wary,” a party source said.