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regular-article-logo Monday, 22 April 2024

Bharatiya Janata Party to hold rally at strife-torn Sandeshkhali on March 10

'There will be a big meeting in Rajapur on March 10. I will be there. The people are with us. We have won a battle, but the war remains to be won,' said Suvendu Adhikari

Subhasish Chaudhuri, Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 01.03.24, 10:35 AM
BJP leaders and workers raise slogans on the second day of their sit-in ‘dharna’ against the state government over the Sandeshkhali unrest, in Calcutta,            on Wednesday. (PTI picture)

BJP leaders and workers raise slogans on the second day of their sit-in ‘dharna’ against the state government over the Sandeshkhali unrest, in Calcutta, on Wednesday. (PTI picture) PTI

Noise from the Bengal unit of the BJP was widely audible all day, as it made obvious its plans to keep the Sandeshkhali pot boiling, even in the wake of the arrest of the alleged perpetrator-in-chief Sheikh Shahjahan, with the aim of ensuring a rich harvest of political dividends in the general election from the issue it believes could snowball into Mamata Banerjee’s Waterloo.

As the first step towards that end, the BJP’s leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari announced a “mega” public meeting in the strife-torn Sunderbans island on March 10, the day the chief minister would launch Trinamul Congress’s poll campaign at a Brigade Parade Grounds rally in Calcutta.

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“There will be a big meeting here in Rajapur on March 10. I will be there. The people are with us. We have won a battle, but the war remains to be won,” said the BJP’s Nandigram MLA, adding that at least 20,000 people would attend the rally. The announcement came on the eve of the first of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three Bengal rallies in the first six days of March.

A principal objective of the BJP is to intensify its belligerence over Sandeshkhali, while countering the Trinamul narrative on the issue. Another aim is to revitalise the party organisation in the island, ensuring communal polarisation in the two blocks of the region with around 35 per cent minority population.

In an indication of plans to keep at it, Adhikari said the film was yet to be fully watched.

Mamata’s bete noire made it fairly clear with his Sandeshkhali activities on Thursday that although Shahjahan was now arrested — he repeatedly claimed it was all a sham — but justice would remain elusive for the people till a central probe agency took command of the probe and secured custody of the “oppressors”.

“We have seen how the state police had handled the Kamduni rape and murder case. We will not sit quietly until the case is taken up by a central agency,” said Adhikari.

“The state government was compelled to arrest Shahjahan…. The fight will continue till everyone in the entire racket operated by him is put behind bars and investigation under the monitoring of the high court begins,” he added.

In the morning, Adhikari reached the Sunderbans island, armed with a high court order allowing him to visit, and visited over a dozen villages, interacting with people, and raising questions on the authenticity of the ruling dispensation’s actions against Shahjahan. He alleged that it was a case of “mutual understanding” between the accused leader and state government.

In a post on X, Adhikari -- referring to a previous post on Wednesday in which he claimed that police already had Shahjahan with them – stated: “Told you so yesterday, that the scoundrel of Sandeshkhali – Sheikh Shahjahan is in the safe custody of Mamata Police. His so called arrest (on the basis of mutual understanding) has been declared now as the nitty-gritties of the deal between him and Mamata police regarding the facilities he would be enjoying in lockup and prison have been finalized.”

Referring to Shahjahan’s body language during court production, Adhikari alleged the apparent confidence stemmed from reassurances by the state government.

“Mamata Banerjee has reassured him, providing a certificate on the Assembly floor, telling him not to worry,” said Adhikari, referring to a speech by the chief minister in the House on February 15, in which she had named Shahjahan to say he was being targeted and framed by the saffron camp. In her subsequent (anonymous) mentions, especially this week, she kept vowing zero-tolerance against those who wrong the people.

On Thursday, Adhikari walked through several villages that had been on the boil, such as Jeliakhali, Halderpara, Patrapara, and Sarberia, interacting with people, before visiting a temple in the area.

In Sarberia, he bought sweets and distributed them among villagers, as part of a celebration of the “so-called” arrest. He also advised people to come forward, irrespective of their politics, to raise their voice against the “oppressors”.

BJP insiders said that mandal committees have been advised to find similarly “oppressive” ruling party leaders across the state and flag issues involving them, to mount a scathing offensive on the Trinamul dispensation ahead of the general election.

“It is crucial to note that Shahjahan was not the sole offender. There are countless others across the state,” said Adhikari.

The BJP’s state unit chief Sukanta Majumdar, virtually echoing Adhikari, said: “There are many, many Shahjahans who live in all the districts of our state. We need to find them all.”

A BJP insider said Sandeshkhali has provided their party with an unexpected opportunity to claim a total collapse of the rule of law in the state.

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