On reaching the spot that the district magistrate of Malda had declared unfit for helicopter landing, media found that the strip had no signs of any repair work or upgrade. With the breaking of this story, an embarrassed Mamata Banerjee said BJP president Amit Shah's chopper could land opposite Hotel Golden Park.
Kolkata/New Delhi: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee government had refused permission to BJP president Amit Shah's chopper to land at Malda airstrip, citing some ongoing 'maintenance work' only to clarify on Monday that the chopper could land opposite Hotel Golden Park in Malda for his political rally on Tuesday. This volte-face created more tension in the already strained relationship between the ruling TMC and BJP over Mamata government blocking BJP's rath yatra citing intelligence report.
In his letter earlier, additional district magistrate of Malda had 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."
Union Min RS Prasad: At same helipad Mamata ji's helicopter landed few days ago. Some journalists went there, I have pictures, it is neat & clean. Helicopters are landing & can land. Based on baseless falsehood, by abuse of govt power, helicopter of Amit Shah ji had been denied. pic.twitter.com/xdOrCSvgra— ANI (@ANI) January 21, 2019
But when media visited the Malda airport, it found that the helipad area and the runway was clean and clear of any construction material.
But when media visited the Malda airport, it found that the helipad area and the runway was clean and clear of any construction material. Photos of the airstrip emerged in sections of media that did not suggest any work of upgrading the strip.
This led to angry protests by Bengal BJP. Roopa Ganguly threatened a stir, as it was a matter of ego for BJP which has already been snubbed by the Supreme Court against holding three rath yatras across 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of Bengal.
.@MamataOfficial blocks @AmitShah's chopper landing before rally in Malda. District administration turned down BJP's request saying the airport is under construction. However, it was found that the helipad was totally operational. A new low in politics...— Roopa Ganguly (@RoopaSpeaks) January 21, 2019
Red-faced, the Bengal government came out with a damage control exercise, suggesting they are okay with the BJP president's chopper landing opposite the Hotel Golden Park, kept ready by the state BJP as Plan B, apprehending non-cooperation from the government.
This was too late for damage control. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad showed the Malda airstrip photo, which seems to be in a perfect condition, hitting out at the Bengal government, "Permission had been refused for his (Amit Shah) helicopter to land on the ground that airport renovation work is going on and some construction material is there. At the same helipad, Mamata ji's helicopter landed a few days ago." He went on to call it an 'abuse of power'.
But Mamata Banerjee chose to downplay the issue that, by now, had snowballed into a huge national controversy. She said, "We granted permission for meeting as we believe in democracy. They (BJP) are distorting information and misleading people".
Meanwhile, BJP fielded Union minister Piyush Goyal who hit out at the Mamata Sarkar, "Law and order has crumbled in Bengal. The administration has become used to rule under the might of weapons. But when we try to use democratic means to question that, BJP is inconvenienced. Had such behaviours meted out to any other leaders by BJP, the intolerance brigade would be up and buzzing."
This is part of the saga of BJP announcing its plan to hold three rath yatras in Bengal, which was denied permission by the Bengal government. The yatra was to pass through all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, with each culminating in a massive rally to be addressed by Shah.
The Bengal BJP had planned to hold a penultimate rally in Kolkata to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But the TMC government blocked it in Calcutta high court, citing a law and order situation. Last week, even the Supreme Court refused permission for the rath yatra while okaying non-yatra political rallies of BJP.
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Last Updated Jan 21, 2019, 5:43 PM IST