Malda (WB) | The rear window of a car carrying Rahul Gandhi was damaged during the ongoing 'Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra', with West Bengal unit president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury alleging that the vehicle was "pelted with stones" in Malda district, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed the incident took place in adjoining Bihar.
The Congress, on its official X handle, however, said the window pane was damaged when sudden brakes had to be applied due to a woman coming in front of the vehicle.
However, Gandhi remained unharmed in the incident. Television footage showed him inspecting the damaged window pane after arriving at a designated halt.
The state Congress claimed the "attack" took place in Malda's Harishchandrapur area as the yatra re-entered West Bengal from Bihar.
"The rear window pane of the vehicle in which Rahul Gandhi was travelling was smashed after being pelted with stones... this is unacceptable. As the yatra entered Malda and was moving through Harishchandrapur, a stone was thrown at the car," Chowdhury remarked.
Speaking at a programme in neighbouring Murshidabad district, Banerjee said the incident took place in "Katihar area in Bihar, bordering West Bengal".
"I learnt that Rahul Gandhi's car was pelted with stones. I checked what exactly happened and found that the incident occurred in Katihar, not in West Bengal. The car entered West Bengal with the glass already broken… I condemn the attack. This is nothing but a drama," Banerjee said.
The Congress, in a post on its official X handle, stated that the incident did happen in Malda but because brakes had to be applied due to a woman coming in front of the vehicle.
"A huge crowd had come to meet Rahul ji in Malda, West Bengal. In this crowd, a woman suddenly came in front of Rahul ji's car to meet him, due to which the brakes were suddenly applied. Then the glass of the car broke due to the rope used in the security circle," the post read.
"People's leader Rahul Gandhi is fighting for justice against the injustice being done to the people. The public is with them, the public is keeping them safe," it added.
A police officer in Malda district said that the matter is being investigated.
"As per initial reports, the window pane was damaged in Bihar when the car was entering West Bengal. We don't have reports of any such incident taking place after the yatra entered West Bengal," the officer added.
Incidentally, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was also present in Malda district this morning to participate in government distribution programmes.
Chowdhury raised questions about security arrangements for Rahul Gandhi, who is entitled to Z+ security cover.
"What were the police doing? He gets Z+ security, how come his vehicle was attacked? We have been facing such behaviour since the yatra entered Bengal on January 25 in Cooch Behar. From not allowing permission to pelting stones, we have faced everything. We condemn it," he said.
"You have to understand who might be behind this incident. I can't say who threw the stone from behind," Chowdhury added.
He said the Congress faced obstacles in West Bengal, ruled by TMC which is an ally at the national level, such as obtaining permission for public meetings and lodging arrangements in Jalpaiguri, Malda and Murshidabad districts akin to the hurdles encountered in BJP-ruled Assam and Manipur during the yatra.
However, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh refused to link the incident with the TMC or the state government.
"Our party national president Mallikarjun Kharge, in his letter to Mamata Banerjee, had stated that there might be certain miscreants who would try to tarnish the image of the state government. There will be no compromise on Rahul Gandhi's safety. The yatra will continue," Ramesh said.
Kharge had previously written to Mamata Banerjee seeking assurances of the yatra's safe passage through West Bengal.
A day before the yatra was scheduled to enter West Bengal last week, Banerjee had announced that the TMC would contest the Lok Sabha polls in the state alone.
While the CPI(M), Congress, and TMC form part of the 27-party opposition bloc INDIA, in West Bengal, the grand old party has aligned with the CPI(M) against TMC and BJP.
The TMC, which has opted to contest the Lok Sabha elections alone, has stayed away from the yatra.
West Bengal's ruling TMC, however, claimed that Congress activists had pelted the vehicle with stones to show TMC in poor light.
"Police must investigate the role of state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. We know he is against the alliance of TMC and Congress in West Bengal. Maybe some Congress activists are behind this stone-pelting incident to paint us in a poor light before Rahul Gandhi," TMC spokesperson Debanghsu Bhattacharya said.
The CPI(M) and the BJP also condemned the incident.
"This shows that democracy has ceased to exist in West Bengal. If the vehicle of a senior leader like Rahul Gandhi can be attacked, it only reflects the lawless situation in the state," CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty remarked.
The BJP criticised the incident, accusing the TMC of displaying "authoritarianism" towards the Congress, its ally at the national level.
"Does the TMC own West Bengal that it will decide who will hold a rally and who will not? We have been facing this for a long time. Our party president JP Nadda's vehicle was attacked in South 24 Parganas district in December 2020," BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya stated.
The incident revived memories of attack on Nadda's vehicle during the run-up to the 2021 assembly polls.