PM Opens Kolkata

PM Narendra Modi is visiting Bengal amid the political storm over Sandeshkhali


Amid the tug of war between Bengal Police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) over the custody of Sandeshkhali strongman Sheikh Shahjahan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a meeting today at Barasat. Barasat is in the same North 24 Parganas district as Sandeshkhali, an island that has emerged as the biggest talking point in Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

The Prime Minister’s event is expected to be attended by some women from Sandeshkhali, which has made national headlines over allegations of sexual harassment, land grab and extortion against local Trinamool leaders led by Shahjahan. The BJP plans to get women from the island to the Prime Minister’s event as it slams the Trinamool government over women’s safety issues.

The Prime Minister’s visit to Bengal comes amid a face-off between the CBI and the state police over the custody of Shahjahan. Arrested after being on the run for 52 days, he has been expelled by the Mamata Banerjee-led party. He is currently with Bengal police, but the BJP has alleged that people of the island will not get any justice till he is grilled by the central agency.

The Calcutta High Court yesterday directed Bengal police to hand over Shahjahan’s custody to CBI, noting that “it has become imperative and absolutely necessary for doing complete justice and enforcing the fundamental rights of the public in general and the public of the locality that the cases be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation for investigation”.

Soon after, the Trinamool government approached the Supreme Court to challenge the high court order and sought an urgent hearing. The request for an urgent hearing was turned down, and the Bengal government was asked to mention its plea before the Registrar-General for a date, as per rules. The state government has told the Supreme Court that they were given sufficient time to seek legal remedy against the high court order. 

Bengal police, meanwhile, refused to hand over the strongman to a CBI team that had reached its office to take custody. The state police maintained that the matter is before the Supreme Court and the handover must take place only after a court ruling.

The BJP is leaving no stone unturned to keep the Sandeshkhali issue alive as it goes into the polls. For the party to achieve its target of winning 370 Lok Sabha seats, it must maximise its wins in Opposition-ruled states such as Bengal. And the serious allegations against Trinamool leaders have come as a great political opportunity for the BJP.

Besides setting the tone for the BJP’s political messaging ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Prime Minister will also be inaugurating several routes of Kolkata Metro. The highlight is the country’s first underwater Metro rail stretch – the train will pass under the surface of the Ganga river.

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