Rahul's Bengal rally off after no chopper landing permit

Photo: IANS

Kolkata (IANS) A scheduled election meeting of Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday has been cancelled in northern West Bengal after the Darjeeling district administration denied permission to let his chopper land at the Police Ground in Siliguri, a Congress leader said.

State Congress working President and the party's candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency, Sankar Malakar, said Gandhi was slated to address the meeting at Dagapur in Siliguri on Sunday.

Malakar also alleged that two other meetings in support of the Congress President, which were scheduled to be addressed by former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Bollywood actress Nagma, also had to be cancelled as the district authorities gave permission very late or for a very short time.

Narrating the sequence of events, Malakar said the concerned All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary had told him that the meeting could take place either on April 14 or April 16, following which Gandhi would fly off to Jangipur in Murshidabad district to address another rally.

"On April 7 we applied for the helipad and ground permission through the Election Commission's single window Subidha. The district authorities sat on the application for four days and just 48 hours back said that permission was being denied.

"Had they informed us in advance, we could have considered some other ground. But we were not even informed the reason for the denial of permission to land the helicopter," Malakar said.

"Now we have no alternative but to cancel the rally," he added.

Malakar also alleged that the district administration was creating problems for all his rallies to keep Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in good humour. Banerjee is presently in north Bengal to attend election meetings.

"These sort of problems are being created for all the opposition candidates. I will move the Election Commission," Malakar said.

The incident also brought to the fore the bickering in the state Congress. When IANS contacted state Congress President Somen Mitra, he denied any knowledge of the meeting. "I have no information about any meeting to be addressed by Rahul ji in Siliguri on Sunday," a peeved Mitra said.

Another Congress leader said Mitra was annoyed as Malakar arranged the meeting without informing the state Congress leadership, including the state President.

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