Mamata blocks Amit Shah’s chopper landing before key rally in Malda
Malda district administration has turned down BJP’s request saying the airport is not ready due to ongoing construction work. However, India Today TV visited ground zero and found that the helipad area was totally clean.
The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal has denied permission for landing BJP president Amit Shah’s helicopter in Malda district. Shah, who was recently treated for swine flu, is scheduled to address a rally on January 22 in Malda. He will reach Kolkata and then take a chopper ride to Malda to attend a public rally with BJP workers from North Bengal.
In its reply to a request from the BJP, the Malda district administration has said it is not possible to grant permission to land VVIP helicopters in this week.
In his letter, additional district magistrate of Malda has said: “As per report of the executive engineer, PWD (civil), Malda Division, up-gradation of work at Malda Airport is going on in full swing. A large quantity of fine sand, dust and GSB materials is lying all along the runway and also stacked all around the site.”
“Moreover, temporary helipad is not maintained properly due to this ongoing construction work. In this situation, Malda Airport is not suitable for safe landing of helicopters. Hence, granting of permission [for Amit Shah’s chopper] is not possible,” the letter read.
Ground zero tells another story
Meanwhile, when India Today TV visited the Malda airport we found that the helipad area and the runway was clean and devoid of construction material. This was completely opposite to what the district administration had claimed in its letter while turning down BJP’s request.
The local workers employed at the airport too said helicopters have been regularly operating out of the airport.
Dipali Das, who works around the airport said, “Ministers and passengers come by helicopters. In the past, the chopper service was irregular but now it is available every week. We have helicopters of Mithun Chakraborty and Mamata Banerjee land here.”
Last month, Trinamool Congress in-charge of Malda and West Bengal Minister for Sports and Environment, Suvendu Adhikari, addressed a rally in Malda. In his speech he had said that helicopter service will be available every Wednesday.
Locals said many ministers and celebrities have used the facility since then.
All out war: TMC versus BJP
This comes days after the Supreme Court stopped the BJP from going ahead with its rath yatras in West Bengal. The state government had raised apprehensions that law and order will be compromised and communal harmony disturbed if the BJP is allowed to hold rath yatras in the state.
The Supreme Court however allowed the BJP to hold rallies across West Bengal.
Amit Shah’s rally on January 22 will be the party’s first rally in 2019. Owing to Shah’s poor health, it was postponed from January 20 to 22. Amit Shah is scheduled to address five rallies in Bengal.
Meanwhile, BJP workers are gearing up to make necessary arrangements for the January 22 rally. The stage is under construction and posters have started coming up across the district.
BJP leader from Malda, Sanjay Sharma said the party has spoken to the local administration for granting permission for the Shah’s helicopter to land in Malda.
He claimed that the ruling Trinamool congress is “scared” that BJP’s support will increase if Amit Shah speaks at the rally.
He said, “Democracy in West Bengal is at stake. The administration is allowing the state government to land its helicopter but permission is not being granted for Amit shah’s helicopter. They are also denying us permission to host the meeting at the venue which was planned earlier.”
Speaking to India Today TV, Sanjit Mishra, BJP district president in Malda, said, “There is no democracy in West Bengal. TMC is trying every way to stop our yatra. We have now decided to hold a public rally but we are not being allowed to land our helicopter. The state government uses this airport and there are helicopters landing here regularly. But rules have changed when we asked permission.”
On its part, the BJP had written a letter to the Border Security Force (BSF) that has a base in the district as it shares border with Bangladesh. The BJP has requested the BSF to allow Amit Shah’s helicopter to land at its helipad on January 22.