BJP leaders gather in front of the building where the party wanted to open an office on Aurobindapally Main Road in Siliguri on Thursday. The house owner refused to let out the space to the BJP because of alleged threats. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, June 19: A trader has backed out of a verbal agreement to lease out the basement of his house to the BJP to open an office in ward 22 of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation after he was allegedly threatened by a group of youths.
The BJP that had put up party flags and banners at the building for the office that was to be opened at Aurobindapally Main Road today alleged that Uttam Kumar Dey had been threatened last night by Trinamul workers who wanted to stop the national party in its tracks in Siliguri.
Dey, who runs a garment shop in town, didn’t name any party for warning him last night against renting the basement of the three-storied building to the BJP. He didn’t lodge a police complaint either.
The BJP has become a force to be reckoned with in Siliguri after the recent Lok Sabha polls. The party led in 21 out of the 47 wards of the SMC and has been preparing for the polls to the civic body and the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad.
The tenures of the SMP and the SMC are to end in the last week of July and October, respectively.
The trader said he had verbally agreed to let out the garage of his three-storied house to the BJP to open an office against a monthly rent of Rs 2,500. “However, a group of 20-odd youths came to my house around 11.30pm yesterday and told me that I should refrain from renting the building to the BJP or else, I would have to face consequences,” Dey said this morning.
“They also told me that if I did not pay heed to the warning and went ahead with the plan, they would bring in 300-400 people and whatever happened then would be because of my decision,” he added.
The moment the youths left, Dey called up BJP leaders and said he didn’t want to let out the space to the party. “I am a simple businessman and live peacefully with my family. I am not in politics and don’t want to get into any problems. So I changed my decision and told the BJP leaders that I could not provide the space for their office,” he said.
Asked about the identity and the political affiliations of the youths who had threatened him last night, Dey said: “I have no idea who they are and whether they are from any political party.”
The BJP leaders and workers gathered in front of the garment merchant's house this morning and tried to convince him to go ahead with the plan for the office lease.
Biswapriya Roychoudhury, the state general secretary of the BJP and the Darjeeling district leaders of the party, were present. Dey was adamant and said he didn’t want to let out the building to the BJP.
Roychoudhury alleged that Trinamul was frightened over the rise of the BJP in Bengal and had sent workers to intimidate Dey.
“Trinamul is frightened over the rise of the BJP across the state, particularly in areas like Siliguri where we performed well in the Parliament elections. Trinamul workers are desperate to stop the BJP from cementing its base in Siliguri and the suburbs and have threatened a house owner for renting space to open our office,” he said.
The BJP leader said since Dey was unwilling to let the BJP open the office at his building, the party would look out for a new space in ward 22.
“Now that Dey is not ready to let out space for the BJP, we will scout for other buildings to open the office in ward 22. We want to assert that we will open an office in ward 22 in the next seven days. We also want to make it clear that if Trinamul plans to attack our office or tries to intimidate house owners who are providing us with space on rent, we will lodge police complaints,” said Roychoudhury.
Sources in the BJP said buoyed by the results of the Parliament polls, the party was opening offices in all SMC wards and panchayats under the SMP. As on date, the party has opened offices in 14 of the 47 SMC wards and over half of the 22 gram panchayats in the SMP area.
“The SMC and SMP polls are round the corner and like any other political party, we are trying to augment our support base,” said a district BJP leader.
Trinamul leaders denied the charge that its workers had warned Dey against letting out the building to the BJP. “The BJP is levelling baseless allegations to malign Trinamul. Our political culture is not to prevent any party from opening an office and our workers need not do such things,” Krishna Pal, the secretary general of Darjeeling district Trinamul, said. “The BJP is desperate to get the media attention and is cooking up such stories.”