Barasat, May 5: BJP leader and Union minister Tapan Sikdar was assaulted this afternoon by alleged CPM supporters, compelling chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to express “personal regret”.
Sikdar, a minister of state for cottage and small-scale industry, was on the campaign trail for the panchayat polls with party supporters when he was attacked at Khamarpara of Barasat Block II.
He suffered injuries on his right cheek after being hit with a sharp weapon. The minister’s securitymen fired two rounds in the air to repulse the attackers.
Bhattacharjee, who spoke to Sikdar twice on the phone, has directed police to arrest the assailants. “I talked to Sikdar over phone and expressed personal regret for the incident,” he said in a statement.
The chief minister had recently appealed for peace following clashes between Congress and CPM supporters in the run-up to the May 11 panchayat polls.
A clash between CPM and BJP supporters had erupted after Sikdar left Koipul. On his way to Kamdhani, where he was supposed to address another rally, Sikdar learnt about the clash and turned back. But his motorcade was stopped by a mob, which allegedly manhandled him and broke the windscreen of his car.
“BJP supporters at Khamarpara reportedly tore off some CPM flags, which led to the clash,” said inspector general, law and order, Chayan Mukherjee.
After lodging a written complaint at the office of district magistrate H.K. Dwivedi, the former state BJP chief came back to the city with his supporters in the same car.
The damaged Ambassador was kept on display in front of the party office in Narayantala near Baguiati on the city’s fringes. Traffic was thrown out of gear as BJP supporters squatted on VIP Road.
Twenty people were arrested in connection with the assault, Mukherjee said. He added that a BJP supporter who was “kidnapped” by CPM cadre was rescued by the police. But he was later arrested as the police found a firearm on him.
Inspector general, south Bengal, N.R. Das, who went to the spot, will submit a report to Mukherjee on the incident. Director-general of police D.C. Vajpai said the Centre has asked for a report on the incident and the state government will send it as soon as Das submits it.
Vajpai said a stone was pelted at Sikdar’s car and the minister was injured by the shards.
State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said some “CPM supporters may have been among the villagers who ransacked Sikdar’s car. The minister was probably injured because the broken glass of his car fell on him. But I must say the incident was unfortunate”.