Bengal Congress chief takes off shirt, Mamata says you ain’t Sourav

Kolkata, Aug 18 (IANS) He may not have a chiselled body like Bollywood hunk Salman Khan but that didn’t deter West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from taking off his shirt in protest on Tuesday. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said such an act “only suits Sourav Ganguly and not others”.

The Congress leader’s act did not amuse political rivals but it charged up his partymen who made their bid to ensure the 12-hour shutdown against the ruling Trinamool’s “anarchy and lawlessness” made an impact.

Enraged over police “raining batons” on Congress activists seeking to enforce the shutdown at Baharampur in Murshidabad, Chowdhury removed his shirt in protest and dared police to fire at him.

“Police have not even spared women and are raining batons on us for participating in a democratic protest. If this government thinks it can deter us with violence, then we are ready even to receive bullets,” said an animated Chowdhury.

As the news of his shirtless act spread courtesy news channels, reports of Congress activists hitting the streets or resorting to vandalism to enforce the shutdown started to pour. Scores of party activists and supporters were arrested across the state.

It may not may evoked much of a response in most parts of the state, but in the Congress strongholds of Murshidabad, Malda and parts of North Dinajpur and West Midnapore, the effect of the shutdown was amply evident.

If people had a field day on social networking sites giving their views on Chowdhury’s shirtless act with some likening him to Salman Khan, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee did not let go the opportunity to take a jibe at the Congress MP.

“Such an act only suits Sourav Ganguly and not others,” said Banerjee, referring to the former Indian cricket captain taking off his shirt on the Lord’s balcony after India’s win in the Natwest trophy final in 2002.

“Such theatrics are only for the cameras, by posing for the cameras like that they will turn into mere pictures themselves,” Banerjee said at a party meet here.

Slamming the Congress for the shutdown, Banerjee said: “They are shouting democracy is under threat in Bengal, there is anarchy. If it is really so, how come they have the opportunity to shout and clamour so much,” wondered Banerjee, who as a feisty opposition leader often resorted to shutdowns and strikes against the erstwhile Left Front government.

Chowdhury in turn claimed Banerjee’s response was indicative of the effect of the shutdown.

“We don’t claim that we have been able to shut down the entire Bengal but people have wholeheartedly supported us,” he said.

Chowdhury also wondered if Banerjee ‘wanted to get him killed’.

“What does the chief minister mean by saying we will turn into pictures. Does she mean she will get me killed? Turn me into a photo? Let her try. I am not scared,” he said.

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