Setting up for a possible confrontation with the BJP, the West Bengal government has denied permission to the opposition party to hold its protest march to the state secretariat Nabanna today, citing among other things Wednesday's Supreme Court judgment on public protests at the cost of public inconvenience.
The official denial by the state Home Department does plunge into uncertainty the BJP's plan for a four-pronged march to the state secretariat, which also houses the Chief Minister's office, especially since it could involve a contempt of court issue.
"We will knowingly break Section 144 at Nabanna," declared Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh. Accusing the state government of singling out the party, he said political parties including the ruling Trinamool Congress, holds protests and rallies in prohibited areas.
"Mamta didi is scared of the BJP. I have heard that she has closed the Chief Minister's Office. I like this fear, it signals Parivartan (change) in Bengal," said Tejasvi Surva, the new chief of the BJP's youth wing, who reached Kolkata on Wednesday to attend the protest march.
Earlier in the evening, BJP leaders mocked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for declaring a two-day holiday at Nabanna on Thursday and Friday. Sanitization was the reason for the shutdown, which the government said had been announced "long back.'
"Didi has shut down Nabanna tomorrow, which is fine. It will anyway shut down in a few months' time," Mr Ghosh said.
BJP national secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, too, tweeted saying, "The BJP announced its Nabanna Abhiyan on October 8 in Bengal and Mamta didi sent her secretariat on a day long holiday. Keep watching, people will send Didi on a permanent holiday soon."
The home department letter denying permission for the rally cited BJP delay in informing the government about the planned protest march. It appears the BJP only intimated the government on October 7, even though word about the abhiyan was in the public domain for days.
The letter of refusal also cited the National Disaster Management Act, under which political rallies can only have 100 participants in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It seems your protest march is in clear violation of this disaster guideline of the Government of India. Indeed you have categorically mentioned that each of your rallies will have around 25000 youth. This is not permissible in the pandemic situation," the letter read.
The fourth reason for denial of permission was that prohibitory orders banning large gatherings under Section 144 is in force in and around the state secretariat.
"We request you to kindly to help us in providing you necessary help for peaceful and democratic release within allowable parameters within the rules of law and not headed to a destination by section 144 of CrPC would be violated," the letter concluded
The government is making arrangements to ensure BJP processionists don't reach the secretariat. Bamboo barricades have been put up at many points in Kolkata and Howrah, where Nabanna is located. The police are likely to use water cannons and tear gas to disperse crowds who may gather at certain points.