Trinamool Blames BJP MP Over Killing Of Party Leader Shot 19 Times

Manish Shukla killing: The Mamata Banerjee government has handed the case over to the CID (criminal investigation department) of West Bengal Police.

Protests were held outside Raj Bhavan in Kolkata after cops stopped the procession

Kolkata:

Twenty-four hours after Manish Shukla, a 39-year-old BJP leader from Bengal's Barrackpore, was shot 19 times - in full view of the public and just metres from a police station - the hearse bearing his body was prevented from going to the residence of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who had earlier hit out at what he called "nose-diving law and order situation in the state".

Earlier today Bengal BJP said it would take the body to the Governor to protest the "murder of democracy". Police stopped them and it was only after Mr Shukla's father and four senior leaders were allowed to go in and demand a CBI probe that the body made its way to Khardah for the last rites.

Why Mr Shukla was killed, and by whom, is still unclear. The Mamata Banerjee government has handed the case over to the CID (criminal investigation department) of West Bengal Police.

Multiple BJP leaders have blamed the ruling Trinamool Congress. The party's Barrackpore MP, Arjun Singh, warned the government of "revenge" for the death of his "brother".

Late Monday, after hints by minor Trinamool leaders that Mr Shukla was the victim of a feud within the BJP, cabinet minister Firhad Hakim took aim at Arjun Singh, the Barrackpore MP.

"The guns used to shoot Manish Shukla were not the kind normally used by criminals in Bengal. Were criminals brought from outside?" Mr Hakim asked before moving on to the explosive bit.

"During and after the last election some criminals had come to work in support of Arjun Singh. I heard they were sharpshooters. One of these criminals died in an encounter with police and then they fled. So were some criminals like this imported? Who imported them and why?" he asked.

"I had heard Mr Shukla wanted to return to our party... that he told his inner circle recently he just couldn't stay in BJP any more," Mr Hakim added.

Mr Hakim had several questions that, he claimed, hinted at something unsavoury.

"Why did Arjun Singh suddenly get out of the car (after which Mr Shukla was killed). I have seen many small BJP leaders with central security... why didn't Mr Shukla have such security? If there was other security, where were they? Why did Arjun Singh get a call from Kailash Vijayvargiya at that time and leave for Kolkata?" he asked.

Mr Singh, meanwhile, has dismissed these allegations.

"Usually I would have been with Manish Shukla and there would have been more than one death. But Firhad Hakim is lying. There was no mystery behind the call. This is all the doing of the Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress will pay for this," he said.

The BJP's Kailash Vijayvargiya was even more categorical.

"Arjun Singh has said many times that the Barrackpore Police Commissioner and Additional Commissioner have been contracted to kill him. We have no faith in the police. As the killing happened in front of the police station, there has to be some link. There should be a CBI probe," he said.

Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh has also blamed Ms Banerjee's party but scored something of an own goal when he said "Bengal, like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, is slipping into the grip of the mafia".

Both UP, where the Yogi Adityanath government is facing severe criticism over increasingly horrific crimes against women, and Bihar are ruled by the BJP and its allies.

Governor Dhankhar tweeted through the day reprimanding the Mamata Banerjee government over a "nose-diving law and order situation", summoning the DGP and Home Secretary and appealing to Ms Banerjee to call him to discuss the situation.

However, only the Chief Secretary showed up for a meeting.

Mr Shukla's body, meanwhile, reached his home in Khardah at around 9 pm. Hundreds gathered to shower petals on his body. Mr Shukla's father, who said his son had a gun that had been seized by the police some months ago, described him as a social worker.

Before he joined the Trinamool, Mr Shukla - an advocate by profession - used to work for CPM leader Tarit Topdar. As the Trinamool rose, he shifted his loyalties to Arjun Singh and the BJP.

Mr Shukla was married and had two young children.

Protests against his killing raged in the Barrackpore area throughout the day, especially near the Titagarh Police Station where he was shot.

A 12-hour band h called for by the BJP was enforced with roadblocks - burning tires and wood - at multiple places. BJP workers repeatedly clashed with police near the Titagarh station, who responded with lathi charges and, in some places, with tear gas.