Trinamool MPs shout slogans outside the Ministry of Home Affairs on 22 November | ANI
Trinamool MPs shout slogans outside the Ministry of Home Affairs on 22 November | ANI
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New Delhi: Officials and visitors at gate number 4 of North Block were greeted Monday morning by the sight of clapping, sloganeering MPs right at the entrance. The 16 Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs had decided to stage a sit-in outside the building on Rajpath, home to the offices of the Ministry of Home Affairs, among others. They were there to raise the issue of alleged attacks on party leaders in Tripura ahead of the 25 November municipal polls, and submitted a memorandum to Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Party sources attributed the choice of site to the intervention of TMC chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Originally, in a communication sent Sunday, the party’s Delhi leadership had asked the MPs to assemble in front of Shah’s residence on Krishna Menon Marg.

But as MPs, many of whom were still in their constituencies, took the next available flight or train to reach Delhi, one Lok Sabha MP called up Banerjee in Kolkata to apprise her of the plan. Banerjee, who arrived in Delhi Monday evening, had originally intended to meet the protesting MPs before heading towards the official residence of party MP and general secretary Abhishek Banerjee on South Avenue. This is her usual base when she visits the capital.

“However, the moment Didi (Banerjee) learned that the plan was to hold a demonstration in front of the home minister’s residence, she was vehemently against it. She called up leaders in Delhi and told them that barricading the residence of a Union minister could result in MPs being charged with ‘difficult’ sections of the Indian Penal Code,” said a senior party leader.

The leader added, “Also, she is never in favour of inconveniencing people personally or their family members for the sake of making a political point. She made them change the protest venue and also told MPs to ‘sit quietly’ outside North Block to make their point.”

Party spokesman Derek O’Brien confirmed to ThePrint that the original plan had been to hold the protest in front of Shah’s residence. “It was because of the calming influence of Didi that we decided to hold it here,” he said.

Party sources said that Banerjee has always been sensitive about the possibility of Opposition leaders in Bengal holding demonstrations in front of her Kalighat residence, and she extends “the same courtesy to her political opponents”.

Also read: TMC leaders claim Amit Shah has assured them he’ll seek report on Tripura violence from CM

Memorandum on Tripura, no mention of mosques

After several hours, Shah finally met the MPs at 4 pm Monday, and the protest had ended by the time Banerjee landed in Delhi. The MPs submitted a memorandum to Shah that listed alleged attacks against party leaders in Tripura, including general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, MPs Dola Sen, Santanu Sen and Aparupa Poddar, and West Bengal minister Firhad Hakim.

The memorandum says: “We are aware that law and order is a state subject, but if a party or government in any state violates Supreme Court orders and takes away the constitutional rights of (an) Opposition party to campaign in a local election, the Centre should look into the matter. The violence against TMC leaders and workers in Tripura by BJP workers, and partisan action by the Tripura Police, must stop. Surely, it cannot be a crime for a political party to campaign in any state.”

Although the TMC’s opponents often accuse it of “minority appeasement”, the memorandum makes no mention of suspected attacks against mosques in Tripura, and alleged incidents of targeted violence against Muslims.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: ‘Postponing election extreme recourse’: SC refuses TMC’s plea to defer Tripura’s civic polls

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