Campaigning in Bengal today, Home Minister Amit Shah canceled his first stop and delivered his speech virtually instead, blaming it on a technical snag in his helicopter. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress claimed the "snag" was really a case of poor turnout.
"I was going to come here for campaigning. Unfortunately, my helicopter was damaged and I couldn't come to see you," Amit Shah said, addressing the rally in Jhargram via video from Kharagpur.
"My helicopter developed a snag but I won't call it a conspiracy," he added in an apparent dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who alleged last week that her leg was crushed by the door of her SUV when a crowd pressed into it in Nandigram, and called it an "attack".
Soon after, came the rebuttal. Addressing a rally in west Midnapur, Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee said Jhargram was "easily" reachable by road. "Those who attend rallies in the afternoon in this heat, they don't come to hear speeches. The home minister had a rally in Jhargram, he could not reach his meeting due to a technical snag. But the images I have seen from the rally where BJP national leaders are coming ... local tea stalls in villages have more crowds than their rallies," said the Trinamool MP, who has been targeted repeatedly by the BJP over nepotism.
The Trinamool Congress posted images of what it called thin crowds and empty chairs at the Jhargram rally site, which it said prompted the last-minute change of plans.
Reason #2 pic.twitter.com/VgH0jjzBDH— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) March 15, 2021
Reason #4 pic.twitter.com/P4msD9y7ha— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) March 15, 2021
The party also sent photos from Mamata Banerjee's rally in Purulia with the caption: "Crowd that doesn't suffer 'Technical Snag'. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed by a sea of crowd in Purulia's Baghmundi."
Later, Amit Shah posted another tweet with an image of a crowd and wrote: "I apologise to the people of Jhargram for not being able to address the rally in person due to technical snag in my chopper. But I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for turning out in such large numbers. Let Jhargram be the harbinger of change and usher Ashol Poriborton."
I apologise to the people of Jhargram for not being able to address the rally in person due to technical snag in my chopper. But I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for turning out in such large numbers. Let Jhargram be the harbinger of change and usher Ashol Poriborton. pic.twitter.com/DGNf3nbyaj— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 15, 2021
Amit Shah was to visit Jhargram, an important rural Bengal constituency, to launch a yatra to honour the role of Birsa Munda and other freedom fighters in the fight against British colonial rule. The BJP had spoken of a massive rally at Jhargram.
The Union Home Minister is on a two-day visit to Bengal, addressing back-to-back rallies as the BJP amps up its campaign for the election starting March 27.
The results will be announced on May 2.