Mamata faces SFI protest, heckled Amit Mitra in hospital (Roundup)

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday faced noisy protests from SFI activists who also heckled her Finance Minister Amit Mitra outside the Planning Commission here to protest a young comrade’s death in Kolkata.

Banerjee later cancelled her scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, citing ill-health, highly placed sources said.

Mitra was Tuesday evening hospitalised at AIIMS after he complained of chest pain.

In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress activists ransacked Communist Party of India-Marxist’s offices following protests against Trinamool Congress leaders in the national capital. Students Federation of India (SFI) is a students wing of the CPI-M.

Earlier in the day, dozens of protestors from the SFI waited for the Trinamool Congress leaders outside the Planning Commission office in New Delhi area and raised slogans against Banerjee when she came with Mitra and other ministers to meet the commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Agitated students carrying placards pushed Mitra around and shouted slogans as he tried to enter the Planning Comission office, a stone’s throw from Parliament. In the melee, his white kurta was torn.

Mitra was later complained of chest pain and was hospitalised at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Sources said Banerjee cancelled her meeting with the prime minister as her blood pressure had gone down.

The chief minister, who earlier was advised not to get down from her car and instead drive straight inside the complex, chose to walk through the agitators who were shouting “Mamata down, down”.

Banerjee, who was to meet Ahluwalia to finalise the annual plan 2013-14 for the state, was also accompanied by Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim. They too were allegedly pushed around.

A fuming chief minister, who was surrounded by the angry crowd, later complained to Ahluwalia, who described the protest as “unwarranted”.

When asked by reporters about the incident, Banerjee said: “These are hooligans…Left is playing dirty politics.”

“They can’t stop me. They can kill me. They can’t stop me from discussing development issues of the state,” a fuming Banerjee told reporters.

The TMC leader, who walked out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) last year, said she had every right to meet the prime minister, the finance minister and the Planning Commission officials.

“What they have done today is breakdown of constitution. They have lost credibility. I feel sorry for them,” she added.

Answering a query about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Kolkata where he praised her, Banerjee said a chief minister “has every right to speak… Anybody can appreciate.”

SFI leader Ritabrata Banerjee said: “Our protest is to show Mamata Banerjee that Sudipto Gupta’s death was not a petty matter. People are deeply concerned about what is happening in West Bengal.”

The SFI protest followed the death in police custody of the organisation’s leader Gupta in Kolkata April 2.

Police in Kolkata insist that the young man was killed when his head struck an electric post while being taken in a bus. The SFI alleged he was beaten by policemen.

Union Minister of State for Planning Rajiv Shukla condemned the incident outside the Planning Commission office and said, “It was wrong to use such meetings for political purposes”.

“It (the protest) has been taken up with Delhi Police,” he added.

CPI-M leadership sought to distance itself from the incident. “We do not approve of any personal targeting,” CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu told NDTV news channel.

CPI leader Atul Anjan said people have a right to protest but there was no place for indecency.

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