Paswan, Buddhadeb escape IED blast

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Pawan had a narrow escape when a powerful improvised explosive device went off moments after their convoys passed through Kalaichandi in Paschim Medinipur district on Sunday. The blast damaged a pilot vehicle.

The leaders were returning from Salboni after attending the foundation laying ceremony of Jindal Steel Works’ mega steel plant.

The police pilot jeep that was following the convoy was riddled with holes caused by splinters from the blast. The other vehicles, including the one in which the Paswan was travelling, continued on their way. The incident occurred about 4 km away from Medinipur.

On reaching Medinipur, Bhattacharjee expressed concern over the blast and said six police personnel in the pilot vehicle were injured, two of them seriously.

Police suspect Maoists to be behind the incident. The extremists have a presence in certain pockets of the district and high on their list of targets is the Chief Minister, according to intelligence reports.

Kuldeep Singh, Inspector-General, Western Range, told The Hindu from Paschim Medinipur district that the blast occurred around 2 pm. “It happened five to ten minutes after the Chief Minister’s convoy passed the spot. The pilot car was part of Paswan’s convoy.”

Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who is in Delhi on an official visit, conveyed his “sense of shock at the landmine explosion.”

In a statement issued from the Raj Bhavan here, he expressed his “great relief that no harm came to the Chief Minister, the Union Minister and to other dignitaries” in the conveys, but was saddened by the injuries sustained by the men on duty.

Gandhi observed “that this latest incident is yet another pointer to the security hazards of our times … The State’s commitment to all-round peaceful progress will not be thwarted by such acts of senseless violence.”

A senior official said the State administration ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident. The blast occurred near a culvert on the Salboni-Medinipur road. The explosive device was attached to a wire that stretched nearly two km across an adjoining paddy field.

The explosion caused a huge crater by the road and its impact was such that it caused the overhead high tension wire to snap.