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Bibhas Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times
Malda (West Bengal), April 24, 2014
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be sniffing enough gains in West Bengal -– a state where it has been a less than marginal player – to send its prime ministerial candidate to visit the state for a third time for campaigning.
 
On April 27, Modi will visit Uttarpara to campaign for two party candidates, Bappi Lahiri in Serampore and Chandan Mitra in Hooghly.
 
"Modiji will hold the rally in a football ground. His visit will undoubtedly boost the already buoyant morale of our workers," said state BJP president Rahul Sinha.
 
Modi launched his party's campaign in Bengal from the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata on February 5. On April 10, he was in Siliguri on his second visit.
 
While in the first visit he and party president Rajnath Singh sounded a conciliatory tone towards Trinamool Congress and its chief Mamata Banerjee, he changed tone on his second visit, launching a blistering attack on the Bengal chief minister on a range of issues from her pursuit of vote bank politics (read minority appeasement) to the Saradha scam.
 
Bappi Lahiri is expected to give trouble to Trinamool Congress' Kalyan Banerjee. But in Hooghly, the ruling party candidate and incumbent Ratna De Nag is seen to be placed comfortably against Chandan Mitra.
 
Uttarpara is a densely-populated area on the western side of the Hooghly river and lies about 15 km from Kolkata. Once a flourishing industrial area, it is now known as a part of the rust belt.
 
In a television interview this week, Modi remarked the Mamata Banerjee government has failed to usher in "parivartan" (change) in the state despite getting enough time to demonstrate governance.
 
BJP has traditionally been a fringe player in Bengal, securing only 6% votes in the 2008 Lok Sabha polls. But this time, the party is expected to poll a far higher share estimated to be around 12-15%.
 
Party leaders point to a countrywide Modi wave and rising anti-incumbency against the Mamata Banerjee government which it hopes would work in its favour.
 
Earlier, its best show was two seats in the 1999 elections but this time the party workers are expecting a minimum of four seats. Rajnath Singh has even predicted 10 seats, and that the party would emerge as a major force in the 2016 assembly polls.