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Were they shot like dogs? Jury out in BJP

Dilip Ghosh delivered a communally charged speech at a pro-CAA rally in Nadia a few hours after Modi had left Bengal

By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya in Calcutta

  • Published 14.01.20, 2:44 AM
  • Updated 14.01.20, 2:44 AM
Dilip Ghosh, Bengal BJP chief.
Dilip Ghosh, Bengal BJP chief. (The Telegraph file picture)

Even the BJP is finding it hard to digest what is coming out of the mouth of its president in Bengal, who has excelled himself and is threatening to land in hot water as many as three state governments run by the party.

Dilip Ghosh, the Bengal BJP chief known for making outlandish statements, had said on Sunday that “shaitans were shot like dogs by our governments” in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

At least 28 people were killed in the three states, all ruled by the BJP. But the state governments had either denied a police role or blamed the protesters themselves for the casualties.

Against such a backdrop and allegations of inhuman response from police and the high moral ground the Prime Minister had sought to take at Belur Math on Sunday, the raw statement by the BJP state president even before the dust had settled on Narendra Modi’s visit to Bengal could not have come at a more inopportune time for the central leadership.

Union minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo fired the first salvo from within the BJP on Monday, distancing the party from Ghosh’s statement and describing it as “very irresponsible”.

Ghosh retorted that he was sure Supriyo did not decide the party line.

Small-arms fire was replaced by higher calibre later. Indirectly lending credence to suggestions that the central leadership and the chief ministers of the three states mentioned by Ghosh have been acutely embarrassed, Swapan Dasgupta, a Rajya Sabha member, retweeted Supriyo’s post seeking to debunk the state BJP chief’s boast.

“Swapanbabu’s retweet can only mean the stand Babulda has taken is endorsed by the very top tier of the national leadership…. While Dilipda may not really get into trouble over one statement, he will probably be reprimanded internally, from Delhi,” said a BJP state unit source.

On Sunday, Ghosh had delivered a communally charged speech at a pro-CAA rally in Nadia a few hours after Modi had left Bengal.

Ghosh had said: “In this state, not one bullet was fired, not one lathi, not one FIR (against anti-CAA protesters. Not one arrest by the police.”

Ghosh’s claim does not match that of the Mamata Banerjee government which had said over 600 people were arrested.

The Bengal BJP chief continued: “But why not? Are these their paternal property? Taxpayers’ money is used for railways, buses, roads, tracks… everything was destroyed. In Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, these shaitans were shot like dogs by our governments. They were lifted and charged in cases. They will come here, nourish themselves and destroy property here? Is this a jomidari?” he asked.

“We will hit with lathi, we will shoot, we will send to prison. That is what our governments did…. Those opposing Hindus, opposing Bengalis, identify all of them, remember them.”

On Monday, Mamata, who went to a sit-in demonstration platform on Rani Rashmoni Avenue to stand in solidarity with students and youths agitating across the nation, said she felt “ashamed” to even take Ghosh’s name.

By then, Supriyo, Ghosh’s party colleague and Union minister of state for environment, forest and climate change, had tweeted: “BJP, as a party, has nothing to do with what a Dilip Ghosh may have said. It is a figment of his imagination and BJP governments in UP, Assam have NEVER EVER resorted to shooting people for whatever reason whatsoever.”

“Very irresponsible of DilipDa to have said what he said,” Supriyo added.

Ghosh refused to stand down. “Who decides the party line? I am sure it isn’t Babul Supriyo,” said Ghosh.

“Things are said on the basis of understanding. I have said on the basis of what I understand and know. He has reacted on the basis of his understanding…. I know what our governments did there. We will do the same here,” Ghosh added.

A state BJP leader conceded that “Dilipda needs to be a little more careful in public addresses” but he attributed Supriyo’s reaction and Ghosh’s repartee to a “long history of discord” between the two.

According to him, the rivalry between Ghosh and Supriyo is one of many in the divided house of 6 Muralidhar Sen Lane, the state BJP headquarters.

On her part, Mamata said: “Always remember, Bengal is not Uttar Pradesh…. This is a downright shame. How can anybody say this? You are actually promoting police firing at people? This is not under the BJP-led UP government, such firing won’t happen here.”

However, shortly before Mamata spoke, her party’s Birbhum chief Anubrata Mondal had said: “It would be right to shoot Dilip Ghosh…. The central government should shoot him.”