New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was attacked on Wednesday while in Nandigram, where she had gone to file her nomination for the coming elections. The Chief Minister said she was pushed by four or five people at a time when there was no police personnel around her. Visuals from the spot showed security guards lifting and placing her on the backseat of a car. The 66-year-old — who has sustained many an injury earlier, most notably in 1991 when she was attacked by CPM goons — appeared pale, visibly shaken and in much pain.
The incident took place near Reyapara when Banerjee was on way back from a temple visit. The Chief Minister told reporters that she was pushed by four or five men while she was trying to get into her car. Pointing to her leg, she added, “See how it is swelling up”.
Asked if it was a planned attack, she said, “Of course it is a conspiracy… there were no policemen around me”.
Banerjee — who was expected to spend the night in Nandigram — returned immediately to Kolkata, around 130 km away, where she was taken to a hospital.
The attack came a day after the Election Commission replaced the Director General of Bengal Police, Virender, amid concerns of violence voiced the loudest by the BJP. An IPS officer of the 1987 batch, P Nirajnayan, has been named the new police chief. The Commission has asked for a report on the attack on the Chief Minister. The report has to be submitted by Friday.
Nandigram will be the site of the biggest battle in the state elections that begin by the end of this month. The Chief Minister has been challenged by her erstwhile aide Suvendu Adhikari, who is now representing the BJP.
Dubbed “outsider” by the supporters of Adhikari — who won the Nandigram seat in 2016 — she had been campaigning relentlessly in the area, which had helped her come to power following the agitation against farmland acquisition.
The BJP, which had blamed the Trinamool after its chief JP Nadda’s convoy came under attack in Bengal in December, called today’s incident a political stunt by the ruling party.
“Is it Taliban that her convoy was attacked? Huge police force accompanies her. Who can get near her?” said state BJP vice-president Arjun Singh. “Four IPS officers are her security in-charge and must be suspended. Attackers don’t appear out of nowhere, they have to be nabbed… She did drama for sympathy,” he added.
“It can happen that she met with an accident but to claim that she was deliberately pushed is not acceptable. She has a lot of security personnel guarding her round the clock,” BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said.
Elections in West Bengal, set to be a stiff contest between the Trinamool and the BJP, will be held in eight phases, beginning with polling for 30 seats on March 27. The counting of votes will be held on May 2.