The police had to use batons to disperse protesters outside the BJP election office in Kolkata on Tuesday as demonstrators upset with the party’s choices for candidate nominations turned violent and started throwing stones.
The police said they had to use mild lathicharge to control the crowd who allegedly targeted BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya, spokesperson of the Bengal unit.
Mr Bhattacharya, however, said it was “impossible” that the party’s supporters had targeted him and suggested a “conspiracy”.
Hundreds of supporters of the BJP had held angry protests outside the party’s election office in Kolkata all day on Monday, even heckling senior leaders Mukul Roy, Arjun Singh and Shiv Prakash, to protest against the fielding of a large number of former Trinamool leaders as BJP candidates.
This took place on a day Union minster Amit Shah landed in Kolkata unexpectedly to stay the night on his way from Guwahati to Delhi and BJP chief JP Nadda arrived for day-long campaign.
Dramatic visuals from outside the BJP’s election office at Hastings showed hundreds of people jostling and shouting and pushing aside barricades in a bid to force their way into the building. A large police contingent was deployed to control the situation. Several BJP offices in the districts were ransacked.
The earliest protestors to show up came in around 2 pm from Panchla in Howrah. They sat on dharna outside the office with banners and posters calling the BJP candidate Mohit Ghati “characterless, drunkard”. They were joined by protestors from Udaynarayanpur, also in Howrah. In the evening, people swarmed in from Raidighi in South 24 Parganas.
The police put up iron barricades outside the entry to the building housing the BJP offices on the fourth, seventh and eighth floor but the crowds repeatedly surged forward, trying to pull them down and forcibly enter the building. The face-off continued till late in the evening.
Also in the evening, agitated BJP workers ransacked the party office at Singur and the BJP’s district headquarters office at Chinsura, both in the Hooghly district.
Singur had seen trouble yesterday too, soon after former Trinamool MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya was named the BJP candidate. The Madhya Pradesh education and health minister, there for organisational meetings, was locked up inside a shop where he was in discussion with party workers.
The police rescued him after four hours of incarceration.
Sources say these seats had strong local contenders for tickets. Their supporters have rebelled, threatening to field Independent candidates to defeat official BJP candidates even if it meant Trinamool sails through.
Joy Banerjee, a BJP leader who has not been given a ticket, said, “I am thinking of changing my platform”.
For the BJP, the candidate list for the state’s 294 seats was expected to be a tough balancing act.
Over the last months, a steady stream of leaders from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress has crossed over to the BJP – leaders who knew they would not get tickets again, the Trinamool had jeered. The BJP has given many of them tickets but upset its own party workers.