BJP president JP Nadda's convoy was attacked with bricks and stones near Kolkata this afternoon, allegedly by supporters of Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress. BJP leaders were injured in the attack and many cars were damaged, the party alleged, accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of serious lapses in security. Home Minister Amit Shah has asked for a report on what he called "sponsored violence" and said the state government would have to answer to people of the state.
Dramatic videos shared online showed a car, said to be part of the BJP chief's convoy, being attacked with bricks and the windscreen and windows shattering. "If I have reached here for the meeting, it's due to Ma Durga's grace," said Mr Nadda. The BJP has launched protests across the state.
The Trinamool, however, accused the BJP of "intentional provocation" and attempting to malign the state government in the run-up to polls next year. "BJP is creating a new Hindu dharma. It is a hateful dharma. This is how Hitler became who he was. They are creating videos of incidents and sharing with media…Nautanki is going on. They will say Pakistan is attacking us, Nepal, Israel," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
The BJP leaders were travelling to Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas near Kolkata when the attack took place around 12 noon. Diamond Harbour is the parliamentary constituency of Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of the Chief Minister.
Some BJP workers on motorcycles were attacked with sticks. Several media vehicles were also hit with stones. Reports suggest the attack was the result of the BJP convoy passing an area at the same time as a Trinamool protest. As the BJP leaders' cars drove through a crowd, many ran alongside, thumping the vehicles with fists and using sticks and rods.
"Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya were injured in the attack. It is a shame on democracy. There isn't a car in our convoy which was not attacked. I am safe because I was travelling in a bulletproof car. This goonda raj in West Bengal has to end," Mr Nadda told reporters.
Kailash Vijayvargiya, showing bruises on his arm, said: "I have been injured in this attack. In the presence of police, goons attacked us. It felt as if we were not in our own country."
Bengal minister Subrata Mukherjee said the incident was "created" by the BJP. "Nadda is doing provocative things. This was all pre-planned. If someone has done something wrong, if they are our people, they will be punished. But I urge our supporters not to fall into their trap. I urge our people to keep distance. The incident will be probed by the government and steps will be taken," the minister said.
Mr Nadda is on a two-day visit to Kolkata as the BJP preps its campaign for the Bengal election due in six months. Addressing a press conference in the evening, he said: "The people of Bengal will remove Mamata Banerjee lock, stock and barrel. BJP will get 200 plus seats in Bengal."
BJP's Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh, commenting that "Bengal has turned into Syria", alleged that policemen were barely present around Mr Nadda even though he has Z-category security. Mr Ghosh said he had written to the Union Home Minister just yesterday expressing concern about Mr Nadda's security. "At our party office at Hastings, Kolkata, there was a mob of 200 plus with sticks, bamboos etc demonstrating raising black flags. Some of them climbed on the cars parked outside the office and raised slogans. Police did not intervene to stop them and casually allowed them to come within a close perimeter of Nadda ji''s vehicle," Mr Ghosh said in a letter to Amit Shah.
Mr Ghosh said he had separately written to the Superintendent of Police of South 24 Parganas district over today's visit as party workers had information that Trinamool protests. The state government called it a "lie" and said it had never been informed about the visit.