Three BJP 'rath yatras', expected to crisscross Bengal ahead of next year's general elections, received a green signal from the Calcutta high court today. The court scrapped the objections of the Mamata Banerjee's government, which had claimed that the yatras could trigger communal tensions. The administration was asked to ensure there was no breach of law and order.
The judgment from the division bench overturns an earlier ruling from the court that had refused permission for the rally. Later, the state BJP had appealed again.
The BJP says the new tentative dates for the 'rath yatras' are December 28, 29 and 31. "We welcome the court's verdict... Today we had a meeting with the party functionaries. The tentative new dates (for the Rath Yatra) are December 28, 29 and 31. Nothing has been finalised as of now. We will inform the state government about it," BJP's Kailash Vijayvargiya said.
Congratulating the state BJP on the judgment, Union minister Arun Jaitley tweeted: "If any NDA/BJP Government had stopped an opposition Programme, it would have been called an "Undeclared Emergency". Why Silence now?"
The BJP has planned three "Save Democracy" rallies: One from Cooch Behar in the northern part of the state, one from Kakdwip, in the extreme southern part and one from Tarapith temple in Birbhum district, which would converge in Kolkata for a massive rally.
Together, the rallies are expected to cover all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bengal -- one of the several non-BJP states, where the party hopes to expand its footprint.
The West Bengal government is likely to move an appeal tomorrow challenging the court's order.
There are expectations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the state to attend one of the marches.
BJP chief Amit Shah -- who set the party a target of 22 seats in next year's national elections -- said permission for the yatras were refused as Ms Banerjee was "terrified" that the party would make inroads in the state. The BJP chief had also warned that "nobody can stop rath yatras in the state".
Ms Banerjee's close aide and Trinamool Congress lawmaker Derek O'Brien yesterday ridiculed the ambitions of the BJP, pointing out that it has only two seats in the state.
Calling the 20-seat plan "another jumla (political rhetoric)", he said the BJP "should work to protect the two seats they've got, otherwise they'd be reduced to zero... the roshogolla would have no sugar".
The ruling Trinamool Congress would embark on a "Pavitra Yatra" (purification rally) a day after BJP's rath yatras. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who dubbed the rath yatras as "Ravan yatras" has said the areas through which they pass would need cleansing.