BJP shutdown cripples life in West Bengal (Lead)

Kolkata, Nov 30 ( Hundreds of opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists burnt public transport, damaged vehicles and ransacked offices in several parts of West Bengal to enforce a 12-hour shutdown Monday protesting the rise in prices of essential commodities.

The dawn-to-dusk shutdown affected life in Kolkata as well as adjoining Howrah district. Police said BJP workers stopped public transport vehicles and demonstrated on Howrah Bridge, disrupting traffic movement during peak office hours.

The movement of trains at both Howrah and Sealdah railway stations was affected following violent protests by those supporting the shutdown. At the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport, pre-paid taxis kept off the roads.

Many local trains were also stopped midway as BJP workers squatted on railway tracks at various railway stations in both Eastern Railway (ER) and South Eastern Railway (SER) stations, sources said.

“Several vehicles were damaged and there have been reports of sporadic clashes in some parts of the state,” state Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Surajit Kar Purokayastha told IANS.

He said a bus was set on fire at Howrah Bridge. “But we have successfully lifted many of the blockades,” he said.

Fourteen BJP activists were arrested for staging a blockade near the busy Rabindra Sadan crossing in central Kolkata and some from Howrah district for staging a sit-in, police said.

The BJP activists also ransacked a DLF building at Sector-V in Salt Lake’s IT township. They reportedly stopped employees near Rajarhat and VIP Road in Kolkata’s eastern fringes while the latter were going to office.

“The IT sector has witnessed regular attendance except one untoward incident at DLF building. Altogether 12 activists have been arrested in connection with the incident,” state IT principal secretary Siddarth said.

BJP state president Rahul Sinha said the 12-hour strike was complete and successful.

“The allegation that the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) – which has been ruling the state since 1977 – is supporting us has been spread by the opposition Trinamool Congress,” Sinha said.

According to sources, four buses were also damaged on VIP Road and another was set on fire at Kankurgachi area in Kolkata.

Many school students and officegoers were stopped at different points in and around the city as BJP activists flexed muscle to enforce the strike.

Life was also impacted in many south Bengal districts – such as in Burdwan, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas – due to the shutdown.

“We’ve called the 12-hour shutdown in West Bengal protesting the price rise of essential commodities and electricity tariff. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is totally indifferent to these basic issues,” BJP state vice president Sabyasachi Bagchi said.

Answering a query on vandalism by hundreds of BJP activists across the state in the name of supporting the strike, he said: “Some bad elements are always there and they create disturbances for common people. We do not support that.

“These elements are planted to create trouble for common people during the strike to damage the image of our party.”