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West Bengal govt denies permission for public meetings by Mohan Bhagwat, Amit Shah

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-09-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to expand its support base in West Bengal, the state administration has refused to grant permission to two right-wing ideologues to hold public meetings in Kolkata.

Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is to visit Kolkata in early October. He was to address a public meeting on 3 October at the Mahajati Sadan, a large hall in central Kolkata, which can accommodate up to 1,200 people.

Permission was initially granted for the meeting, but was withdrawn earlier this month, said Rantideb Sengupta, secretary of Sister Nivedita Trust, a non-government organisation, at whose invitation Bhagwat planned to visit Kolkata. The trust was told that the hall will not be available because it is undergoing renovation, said Sengupta.

In January, RSS moved the Calcutta high court to secure permission to hold a public rally addressed by Bhagwat. It was held at a ground in central Kolkata under orders of the Calcutta high court.

The state, however, refused to grant permission for another event at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata, which was to be addressed by BJP president Amit Shah. The stadium can accommodate as many as 12,000 people. Shah was to address a meeting at the stadium during his visit to Kolkata between 11 and 13 September.

The party was told that the stadium is not available until after Durga puja, due later this month, said Sayantan Basu, a spokesperson for the BJP in Kolkata. “These are proof that there is no democracy in West Bengal,” he said.

Several RSS chiefs have visited Kolkata and addressed public meetings, said Biplab Roy, a spokesperson for the outfit in Kolkata. It is surprising that the state is now trying to stop them from addressing the local people, he added.

Two senior BJP leaders in Kolkata said that in the absence of strong local leadership, ideologues such as Bhagwat and Shah are key to expanding the party’s support base in the state.

Clearly, the Trinamool Congress will create impediments, but the BJP will find ways to deal with them, they added, asking not to be named. “We have, fighting against all odds, established ourselves as the only opposition party in the state,” said one of them.

Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University, said the Trinamool Congress has turned its focus on the BJP and RSS from the Left parties which are anyhow in disarray.

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