The day after the Amit Shah-led rally saw renewed activity by the CBI against Trinamul leaders, which prompted the state’s ruling party to accuse the BJP of resorting to its hackneyed weapon of “misusing” central agencies in order to make its presence felt after the "super flop" Esplanade event.
The CBI, which reports to Shah, started simultaneous raids in various districts, less than 24 hours of his return to Delhi. The raids also took place at the residences of Trinamul leaders, in connection with the agency’s probe into allegedly irregular recruitments in schools, including its Domkal MLA Jafikul Islam, Calcutta Municipal Corporation councillor Bappaditya Dasgupta, and Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation councillor Debraj Chakraborty. Of them, Chakraborty is known for his proximity to Mamata’s nephew and Trinamul MP Abhishek Banerjee. His wife, singer Aditi Munshi, is Trinamul’s Rajarhat-Gopalpur MLA.
“Amit Shah’s rally was a super flop show. The amount of people present at their meeting is the same as the crowd in the backstage area of Mamata Banerjee’s July 21 event at the same location,” said Trinamul state general secretary Kunal Ghosh on Thursday, referring to what is being widely deemed a far from satisfactory turnout at the much-hyped Shah rally.
“With respect to both crowd and political importance, the BJP event yesterday was a big failure. As Amit Shah’s event was an absolute flop show, the aimless Bengal BJP engaged in a charade… to deflect attention,” added Ghosh.
Besides the crowd count, billed to be around 60,000 instead of the expected one-lakh-plus, the Union home minister’s uncharacteristically short speech — labelled “insipid, soporific” by Trinamul — and apparent dilution of his 35-seat Lok Sabha election target for his party disappointed many in its state unit, BJP insiders admitted in private.
The BJP’s state chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya rubbished the allegation.
“Trinamul has mistaken the BJP for itself. The way they politically misuse the state agencies, such as the CID, the BJP does not do it with the central agencies,” he claimed.
“These raids have nothing to do with the Amit Shah-led rally, which did not flop at all, by the way,” he added. “This is another instance of the Narendra Modi government’s zero tolerance for corruption.”
The BJP and Trinamul also remained belligerent in the Assembly for the second consecutive day.
The day began in the House with a ruckus, as the BJP MLAs staged a walkout after Speaker Biman Banerjee disallowed their demand for a discussion on why arrested minister Jyoti Priya Mallick should continue as a member of Mamata’s cabinet.
After the walkout, the BJP and Trinamul legislature parties accused each other of unparliamentary behaviour.
Later in the day, the two legislature parties once again participated in a sabre-rattling exercise with two separate protest demonstrations, barely 20 metres apart on Assembly premises. Each side raised bellicose slogans, accusing top leaders in the other of being “thieves”, for some time in the evening. This was a virtual rerun of Wednesday evening, except for the absence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The Trinamul legislature party lodged an FIR against 11 BJP MLAs for “disrespecting” the national anthem on Wednesday, which the ruling party’s two-hour, anti-Centre protest demonstration since Tuesday is ending with. On Thursday, a new FIR was lodged against seven BJP MLAs on the same grounds.
Mamata had said on Wednesday that she would urge Speaker Biman Banerjee to initiate action in consultation with the police. On Thursday, the Speaker expressed displeasure over the BJP legislature party’s activities, and promised “stern, administrative action”.
“Following their super flop show, BJP leaders engaged in objectionable behaviour at the Assembly. But everyone in the country has anyway got to know that Bengal has rejected Amit Shah,” Trinamul state general secretary Ghosh remarked.
“A police complaint has been filed and an investigation will continue according to the prescribed guidelines. But, we request Calcutta High Court to refrain from providing immunity to those who disrespect the national anthem,” he added.
BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly who was suspended by the Speaker on Tuesday for the rest of the ongoing winter session, said: “There are several elementary mistakes in their complaint. We will duly respond in court when the time comes."