Praveen Togadia banned from entering Bengal, oppn smells electoral compulsion

Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government on Wednesday issued prohibitory orders banning the entry of VHP international vice president Praveen Togadia in West Bengal, arguing that his presence could lead to "communal tension" and disturb public tranquillity.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad leader, known for his controversial speeches, was slated to take part in a programme in North Dinajpur district on April 5. The opposition parties, however, related the decision to the civic polls in the state later this month, saying it was an effort to garner votes of the minority communities.

A press note issued by the state home department on Wednesday said the "prohibitory orders under section 144 of the criminal penal code" were promulgated by the respective district magistrates or police commissioners on March 31. The note signed by Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee said the orders were issued "on the basis of information available with them".

"They apprehend that the entry of Dr. Praveen Bhai Togadia, his holding closed door or public meetings, rallies will lead to communal tension, and this would cause disturbance of the public tranquillity. "Accordingly, these orders would be strictly enforced and Dr. Praveen Bhai Togadia is prohibited from entry into any district or police commissionerate in West Bengal," the note said.


Praveen Togadia. File pic

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also holds the home portfolio. The opposition said the constraints of electoral politics were behind the decision. While the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls are slated to be held on April 18, a total of 92 other municipalities in various parts of the state would go to the hustings a week later.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi said: "This is wrong, this should not have been done." BJP Lok Sabha member S.S. Ahluwalia said the prohibitory orders were imposed to "keep a handful of people happy", and throttle the "voice of the majority".

Congress leader Abdul Mannan said with the civic polls just days away, Banerjee needs the votes of the "secular sections". "But if need be, she will again go to him with a flower bouquet," he said. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) central committee member Mohammed Salim called the decision "too little, too late".

"During the last three and a half years, due to the policies pursued by Mamata Banerjee, communal forces of all hues, even those from abroad, have set up base in the state. The administration has been caught napping.

"Now because of the municipal polls, she is doing this. But this will only make the BJP, which has been losing steam of late, relevant. She had earlier threatened to arrest Narendra Modi, but now everyone has seen how she has surrendered to him," Salim told IANS.

The Odisha and Karnataka governments had recently banned Togadia from entering parts of the state, saying his presence could cause breach of peace. Last month, Assam Police had prevented the VHP leader from delivering speeches in two places in the state, even as Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi denied imposing any ban on him.

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