BJP-TMC battle peaks in Bengal

BJP-TMC battle peaks in BengalMamata Banerjee inspects the vandalised statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in Kolkata on Wednesday

Violence breaks out during a roadshow by Amit Shah in Kolkata

Kolkata: The political battle over the violence and vandalism during BJP president Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday sharpened to a Bengalis-versus-outsiders conflict.

Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress claims the BJP had brought in goons from outside the state who know nothing of Bengal's history and culture, which led to the vandalism of the statue of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar at the college named after him.

Amit Shah claimed that it was Trinamool workers who broke the statue and pinned it on the BJP to sully the party's image.

The BJP has asked the Election Commission to ban Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Sunday.

TMC also went to the Election Commission with what it claims is an authentic video of the vandalism.

TMC leaders have added Vidyasagar's image to their Twitter accounts and are holding a rally on the route Amit Shah's roadshow took on Tuesday evening -- past the Calcutta University and Vidyasagar College.

Breaking down at a press conference in Delhi, senior Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien said the violence and vandalism "hurt the very ethos of Bengal".

The attackers, he said, were shouting a slogan while they smashed the statue: "Vidyasagar shesh (over). Where's the josh?"

The police said 58 people have been arrested for the violence. The Trinamool claimed that most of them are not residents of Bengal.

The vandalism has become an emotive issue in the state. Iswarchandra Vidyasagar -- a 19th Century educationist, reformer and a key figure of Bengal renaissance -- had started widow remarriage and women's education, opened schools and colleges and started the use of the Bengali language as a vehicle for literature.

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