Kolkata, Jan 07 (The Street Press India) – Friday’s incident when Enforcement Directorate officials were attacked while conducting a raid at Trinamul leader Shahjahan Sheikh’s home in Sandeshkhali has left Bengal’s ruling party in a tough spot. Publicly, they are maintaining a confident front, but privately, they are grappling with the potential political consequences of the situation.
Trinamul has deployed its key figures to safeguard its government against Opposition critiques on the state of law and order. Simultaneously, they are launching a counteroffensive, accusing the BJP of engaging in vindictive politics.
In confidential discussions, and even in some public statements, certain Trinamul leaders are acknowledging that the Sandeshkhali violence has put the party in a challenging position leading up to the Lok Sabha elections. Trinamul MP Satabdi Roy from Birbhum expressed that the incident has harmed the party’s image, providing the BJP an opportunity to criticize the state government, despite emphasizing that the ruling party was not involved in the turmoil.
Satabdi Roy, acknowledged the harm caused to the party, stating, “Yes, it is certainly damaging for the party as the Opposition has got an opportunity to speak (against Trinamul), and the journalists to ask questions,” Roy said on the sidelines of a party event in Rampurhat, Birbhum.” She emphasized the party’s disapproval of any form of attack, asserting, “Any kind of attack is unacceptable, and the party is certainly not backing any such act…. It (the attack) was an act of foolishness.”
Satabdi Roy highlighted the seriousness of the situation, mentioning that a mob attacked the Enforcement Directorate team during a raid related to PDS irregularities. The attackers vandalized cars, expelled the accompanying CRPF jawans, and assaulted journalists. Roy stressed the need for action against those involved in these incidents.
Satabdi Roy clarified, “The act was individual and the party is not responsible. Such an incident doesn’t (correctly) depict the law-and-order situation in Bengal.” Another Trinamul MP, who preferred not to be quoted, elaborated on why the incident posed a setback for the party, particularly amid existing challenges related to corruption charges.
“So far, it’s only been corruption cases that are still to be proved in court, but the BJP will now corner us with the new accusation of preventing the central agency from doing its job. The attack on the ED officials has helped the saffron ecosystem politically,” the MP said.
According to a Trinamul source, internal dissensions between the established leaders and the younger generation, especially regarding the party’s management and the role of second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee, had slowed down the party’s readiness for the Lok Sabha polls. A party leader expressed optimism, stating, “The differences will come to an end very soon and this is the time to throw ourselves into the election preparations.”
“But the incident has taken place at a time when every single day is crucial for the party. When the party has to concentrate on poll preparedness, all the prominent leaders are compelled to engage with this particular incident.”
Abhishek Banerjee is scheduled to address a public meeting at Pailan in Diamond Harbour, his parliamentary constituency, on Sunday, where he is expected to clarify the party’s stance on the recent incident and address concerns. As of now, neither Mamata Banerjee nor Abhishek has commented on Friday’s incident.
Following the violence, Trinamul leaders promptly defended the party and government against the united Opposition, particularly targeting the BJP and accusing it of misusing central agencies to target the Opposition.
Amid ongoing verbal disputes on Saturday, Trinamul pointed to instances of central agency officials being attacked elsewhere as a defense. Kunal Ghosh, Trinamul state general secretary, highlighted previous incidents, stating, “Attacks on any investigation agency or central agency are not expected. But we witnessed such incidents happening earlier in other places too.” Ghosh cited a CBI team being attacked in Uttar Pradesh in 2019 during an investigation into the Rs 126-crore Yamuna Expressway scam and questioned the response of the BJP-ruled state’s police at that time. He also provided two more examples of attacks on central agency officials in other states.
Trinamul brought up an alleged attack on Bengal police’s CID when their officers went to Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh to apprehend a BJP youth leader accused of placing a cash prize on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s head.
“When @WBPolice and @CIDWestBengal went to arrest, former Mandal President of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), had announced a reward of Rs 11 lakh for beheading #WestBengal Chief Minister @MamataOfficial di in 2017 they were assaulted by #BJP goons from #UttarPradesh,” state Trinamul spokesperson Tanmoy Ghosh wrote on his X handle.
“Did anyone question Yogi Adityanath? Did the governor give any threatening bytes to the media on imposing President’s rule? Did anyone question the law and order of Uttar Pradesh?”
A senior Bengal BJP leader asserted, “All the (Trinamul’s) efforts (at self-defence) prove that the incident has put the party in an uncomfortable situation. We will not let the issue go easily, as it proves that Trinamul tried to prevent the ongoing probe into corruption.” The leader further emphasized that incidents of attack on an ED team in Bongaon, within the same district, following the arrest of a former Trinamul civic body chairman on Friday, were not isolated to Sandeshkhali.
Senior BJP leaders, including Union rural development minister Giriraj Singh, have raised concerns about the functionality of democracy in Bengal following Friday’s incident. On Saturday, the BJP mobilized its members, organizing protest marches across the state in response to the attack on the ED.
Under the leadership of Indranil Khan, the state president of the party’s youth wing BJYM, a group of BJP politicians staged a protest outside the BJP’s state headquarters at 6 Murlidhar Sen Lane.
In Howrah, BJP workers staged a blockade on the Howrah Bridge for over half an hour, and multiple protests were reported from various districts including Hooghly, Birbhum, East Burdwan, Purulia, and Bankura.
Trinamul leaders acknowledged their inability to distance themselves from the violence, citing Shahjahan’s significant role as a known party leader in Sandeshkhali, controlling the organization in at least two Assembly segments.