Kolkata, March 31: The collapse of a flyover that killed at least 18 people turned into a massive political slugfest in poll-bund West Bengal as the opposition mounted a united attack on the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government.
A large chunk of the under-construction Vivekananda Flyover collapsed in the crowded Posta area crushing people and vehicles. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said 18 people were dead and at least 78 were injured.
The toll was likely to rise with many people feared trapped beneath the massive rubble.
Even as she said the "time was not for indulging in politics but to save lives", the Trinamool supremo did try to shift the onus of the tragedy on the Left Front, pointing to the fact that the foundation for the flyover was laid in 2008 and work began in February 2009 when the Leftist coalition was in power in the state.
"The construction began during CPI-M time and not during our time. It's not the time for politics, our focus is to save the people," said Banerjee, who rushed to spot cancelling her scheduled poll rallies in West Midnapore district.
She also promised "stringent action" against those "guilty for the very, very unfortunate tragedy".
The opposition, however, was not impressed and squarely blamed "corruption within the Trinamool" which incidentally has been under severe pressure over a sting operation allegedly showing several of its leaders accepting bribes.
"The CM by blaming others can't pass the buck and misguide the people. We demand immediate arrest of the state urban development minister (Firhad Hakim) and the city mayor (Sovon Chatterjee). I will also file a public interest litigation seeking a probe in the matter," said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress.
The Congress MP, who visited the site, also claimed police came "late to the spot" and lambasted the administration for not seeking timely help of the army.
Holding the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) responsible for the tragedy, Left Front chairman Biman Bose strongly condemned Banerjee's "attempt to evade responsibility".
"We have heard that the chief minister, astonishingly, has held responsible the Left Front as the construction of the flyover began during our time.
"But the question that arises is, which portion of the flyover collapsed -- one which was constructed under the Left regime or that which came up under the Trinamool," said Bose.
"We strongly condemn the chief minister's attempt to evade responsibility by showing such excuses," he added.
CPI-M leader and former urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya put the blame on Hakim.
"The present urban development minister has to shoulder responsibility. There should be a high-level inquiry," said Bhattacharya.
Describing the incident as an example of the "corrupt ways of the Trinamool", the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded a probe, preferably by the CBI.
"It's an example and proof of the corruption by the Mamata government. People of the state will not forgive her. There should be an immediate probe into it," said BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayavargiya.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha after visiting the side demanded a CBI probe.
Meanwhile, Governor K.N. Tripathi sought a report from the Banerjee government on the incident and suggested carrying out proper supervision of all under-construction flyovers and bridges across the state at the earliest.