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No stay on BJP’s ‘rath yatras’ in Bengal, Campaign on chariots to start tomorrow

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Kolkata: BJP is not leaving any stone unturned to oust ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal. Taking up new ways to campaign for the upcoming state assembly elections, BJP leaders might not be seen decked on open trucks but the party is now stepping on the gas in the race and plans to deploy chariots for its ‘Parivartan Yatra’.

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The move, however, had incited controversies and a petition was also filed in the Calcutta High Court seeking a stay on the planned Yatra citing COVID-19 and issues of law & order. But as the Court has not pronounced a stay order on the rath yatra, BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Friday tweeted that the district administration couldn’t stop the procession and announced his party’s decision to go ahead with the Rath Yatra as planned. Earlier, he had also categorically stated that it was the party’s fundamental right to take out the Rath Yatra to be ‘among the people’. The next hearing is reportedly scheduled for February 9.

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The party will reportedly take out five rath yatras, the first will be on February 6 by BJP president JP Nadda from Nabadwip in south Bengal while the second will be flagged off by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on February 11, from Cooch Behar in north Bengal. The three other starting points are Jhargram, Kakdwip and Tarapith. Each rally will run for about 25 days and will crisscross all 294 assembly seats in the state. BJP has billed these yatras ‘parivartan yatras’ or rallies for change. Talking about it, Bengal BJP spokesman Samik Bhattacharya said, “This yatra is only for politics. This rath yatra is not for building Ram Mandir or any other temple. This is simply for ‘parivartan’ (change).”

Meanwhile, where BJP calls Rath yatras a legitimate political tool, Trinamool alleges them to be provocation. The state government has deflected BJP’s queries on “peaceful conduct” of the yatra and public rallies along the route to “local administrative authorities”. A Calcutta High Court lawyer filed a PIL saying the rath yatras will provoke communal tensions and should not be allowed.

Earlier, the Bengal government had directed the state’s BJP unit to approach the local authorities to seek permission for the proposed ‘Parivartan Yatra’ in the poll-bound state. As the BJP sought permission from West Bengal’s special secretary they told them to approach the appropriate local authorities dealing with law and order to get a nod. BJP was also asked to write the route details of the yatra to the District Magistrates (DMs) and Superintendant of Police (SPs) to get permission. As per reports, BJP is set to write a detailed letter to the authorities on Wednesday.

The BJP claims these are steps to curb the opposition’s voice, “The opposition has the right to go to the people in a democracy. But Mamata Banerjee’s government always tries to silence them,” said Vijayvargiya. “The yatras will expose corruption in the Mamata Banerjee government on coal scam, cow smuggling, tolabaji”.

Interestingly, ‘Parivartan’ was Mamata Banerjee’s slogan back in 2011 when she had ousted the Left Front government which was in power for 34 years and now the BJP is now calling for ‘Parivartan of Parivartan’.

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Biswanath Chakraborty, Political science professor and commentator says the BJP has timed the rath yatras well.

“By the time they get underway, the model code of conduct will be in place and central security forces too, minimising chances of violence. I also believe the government strategy is to give permissions in some districts and not in Muslim-dominated districts.”

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