Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee, who was on Wednesday sworn in as the chief minister of Bengal for a third consecutive term after a thumping election win for her party, promised to monitor the Covid-19 crisis and law and order situation in the state amid a spate of post-poll violence.
Banerjee, who took the oath in Bengali, said her first priority was to tackle the pandemic. “I will go to Nabanna (the state secretariat) now and hold a meeting about the measures we are taking about this crisis,” she told the media.
The fiercely fought assembly elections that were held over eight long phases had prompted healthcare experts to warn of an impending eruption of Covid-19 cases in the state, with dozens of rallies held during campaigning potentially acting as superspreader events. The ruling Trinamool Congress won an unambiguous mandate, picking up 213 of the 292 seats on offer, while its strongest rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, finished second with 77 seats.
Taking note of reports about widespread violence in the state following the announcement of the election results on May 2, the chief minister said, “My second priority is to tackle the law and order of the state. I appeal to all political parties to refrain from any sort of violence. I will be posting special officers to handle the situation… We will handle the situation sternly.”
State BJP leaders and supporters have alleged that many party workers have been killed, raped, assaulted brutally and their houses set on fire across the state. They have accused TMC cadres of carrying out the attacks and alleged that police are not doing anything to provide them protection. Other opposition parties like the Left and Congress too have made similar allegations.
While congratulating CM Mamata Banerjee on her third term, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also touched upon the law and order situation. “I congratulate chief minister Mamata Bandopadhyay for her third term. I express hope and expectation that governance will be according to the Constitution and rule of law. In India, there is a great democracy where power emanates from the process of law. We are at the moment in a very difficult crisis," he said. “I am getting reports within and outside the country and people are worried. I interacted with the chief minister and she has taken steps when I indicated to her (about the violence). Our first priority is we must end this senseless and horrendous violence that has affected our society…I have every hope that the chief minister will on an urgent basis take all steps to restore rule of law and I am sure those who have been hurt particularly children and the women should be given relief on a priority basis."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called the governor and enquired about the “alarming situation" in the state. “PM called and expressed his serious anguish and concern at the alarmingly worrisome law & order situation @MamataOfficial. I share grave concerns @PMOIndia given that violence vandalism, arson, loot and killings continue unabated. Concerned must act in overdrive to restore order,” Dhankhar tweeted.
The Trinamool Congress alleged that at least three of its supporters were killed by the BJP, which rejected the charges, saying the attack was a result of “people’s resistance". The incident took place when some TMC supporters were on the way to Nabagram in the Jamalpur police station area on their motorcycles and were allegedly attacked by BJP workers, sources said.
The TMC said that its members were thrashed and their bikes were damaged. The injured were taken to different hospitals and two were declared dead by Burdwan Medical College and Hospital.
West Bengal BJP leaders alleged they were denied permission to hold a dharna’ (sit-in) in front of the Gandhi statue in Kolkata and also a stage set up for the protest against the violence was removed by the city police.
On May 4, the BJP announced that it would hold nationwide protests under the leadership of Nadda against the attacks by TMC cadres in Bengal.
The BJP chief said that in the past two days, 11 party workers and supporters had lost their lives while two had been gang-raped in the state. He termed Mamata Banerjee a “symbol of intolerance" and said the BJP will expose her real face before the people of Bengal.
Nadda also met the family members of victims in Kolkata and its neighbouring districts and assured them full cooperation in this time of crisis. He also promised that their sacrifice for the party would not go in vain.