Hours after a three-member central team began the exercise to assess law and order in West Bengal, the CPI(M)-led ruling Left Front on Tuesday dared the Centre to invoke Article 356 in the state and said it was ready to accept the challenge.

“People of the state are ready to face the challenge if the Centre feels that it will invoke Article 356 for the state to teach the people a lesson,” Left Front chairman Biman Bose said after a front meeting here.

Describing the central team’s visit as “unnecessary”, Mr. Bose said, “There was no need to dispatch the team here without consultation with the state government.”

Alleging that the Congress-led UPA government had sent the team driven by the “compulsion of coalition” and under pressure from the allies, the Front chairman said, “Trinamool Congress has been conspiring over the Central team’s visit.”

“It is no use spreading confusion by talking repeatedly of Article 355 and Article 356,” he said.

Mr. Bose said the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had stated that the central team was being dispatched to assist the state government.

“We can only accept the face value of his statement that dispatching such a team is not a step for imposing Article 356,” he added.

Without naming TC chief Mamata Banerjee, Mr. Bose alleged that one of Chidambaram’s colleagues had been talking of Article 355 and 356 and the Centre was silent. “This gives a conflicting signal,” he said.

Regretting that the Centre had remained silent on “Trinamool’s link with the Maoists”, Mr. Bose said this had resulted in the killings of 110 CPI(M) members since last Lok Sabha elections.

“It is a matter of concern that the Centre is silent on Trinamool Congress’ connection with the Maoists. There is no word (from the Union government) about the fact that the TC is hand in glove with the Maoists,” Mr. Bose said.

Hitting out at the central team, he said, “Why only Khanakul, if the team want to visit places, they should go to the areas where CPI(M) workers and leaders had been killed. It has to go to all places where violence had taken place...it has come not to assist, but to assess the law and order situation.”

Later, Mr. Bose said, “The central team should visit an area only if the state government wished so, otherwise it should not. This is because the state government is the competent authority to submit a report the Centre wants to have.”

Asked if BJP’s supporting Left parties in Parliament on the central team’s visit indicated realignment of forces, he said the BJP supported the Left Front on the issue “purely because the central action contravened the Constitution“.

“BJP is also running several state governments and it is aware of the implications of the central move which may also have an impact on their state governments,” Mr. Bose said.

On Trinamool Congress’ allegation that the BJP had colluded with the CPI(M) to make Monday’s ‘Bangla Bandh’ a success, he said, “There were no CPI(M) activists anywhere near the trouble spots. Let Mamata Banerjee prove her allegation as it is not enough to level charges without any evidence.”

To a question that some Trinamool-run panchayats had closed their shutters yesterday during the BJP-sponsored bandh, he said that might indicate that the Trinamool Congress and BJP were behind yesterday’s trouble in the name of the bandh. “Both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP had been allies earlier.”

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was not present at today’s Left Front meeting.