| Pranab Mukherjee after the attack. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, May 15: A mob of Congress supporters today showed how defenceless even the nation’s defence minister can be before factional rivalry in his own party in his home state.
Pranab Mukherjee was shoved and abused for nearly an hour at the state Congress headquarters, emerging with a torn panjabi and bruised sentiments.
As he jostled with the crowd, which was protesting against the distribution of civic poll tickets, the state Congress chief grabbed some of the men by the collar and slapped them.
The mob, which roughed up state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharjee when he tried to rescue Mukherjee, was later heard chanting “Somen Mitra zindabad”.
The state’s Left Front government promptly offered to buttress the minister’s security if he made a request and lodged a police complaint against his attackers ' something Mukherjee declined to do.
In Delhi, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas scoffed: “(Congress) leaders are getting thrashed by their supporters even before the so-called jot has been born. Once it is formed, the people will get beaten up in the same fashion.”
The crowd was waiting for Mukherjee when he reached Bidhan Bhavan around noon, two armed constables in tow. As soon as the state Congress president climbed out of the car in the driveway, he was surrounded.
The minister, who had arrived to release the list of poll nominees, found his way barred by a seething, slogan-shouting mob.
“Who are you' How did you get inside'” Mukherjee scolded them. “You can’t be genuine Congressmen. If you were, you would not be demonstrating here, strengthening the CPM’s hands.
“Tomra shob CPM-er hat shakto korte chaichho (You are trying to strengthen the CPM’s hands),” he shouted.
The crowd immediately rounded on him. “Pranabda CPM-er dalal. Subratar sathe atant kore Congress-er sure seat diye dichchhe (Pranabda is a CPM agent. He is offering the Congress’s safe seats to Subrata),” someone screamed.
The gates had been shut but the crowd kept swelling with many climbing over and joining the protesters. Several people were pounding on Mukherjee’s car with their fists. A few journalists got beaten up.
around 12.45 pm, other leaders on the third floor came to Mukherjee’s rescue and pulled him to safety.
When former state Congress chief Somen Mitra arrived on the scene, the crowd cooled down.