After Bihar debacle, Amit Shah postpones BJP’s poll campaign in Bengal

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Nov 13, 2015 17:10 IST
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP President Amit Shah at the party's parliamentary board meeting in New Delhi. (PTI)

After the electoral debacle in Bihar, the BJP has pushed back its campaign for next year’s assembly polls in West Bengal, with party president Amit Shah skipping his proposed “Utthan Divas” meeting in Kolkata on November 30.

Shah will now address public meetings in West Bengal late in December and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwarts will hit the state in January.

The BJP had planned to launch its campaign during the November 30 meeting at Shaheed Minar Ground in the heart of the city. Shah was expected to discuss the blueprint for the campaign with BJP leaders and sort out organisational issues.

On Thursday, senior BJP leaders tried to dispel the impression the decision was a fallout of its humiliation in Bihar. But sources in the party told Hindustan Times that leaders wanted bickering within the party after the electoral defeat to subside before the push for West Bengal begins.

The BJP also expects to buy more time before hitting “poll mode” in the state, the sources said.

“We held a meeting with our national leadership in Delhi on November 6. It was decided that Amit Shah will hold rallies in the districts in December. Therefore, he will not visit Bengal on November 30,” Rahul Sinha, the president of the state unit of BJP, told a news conference.

Read | Everything went wrong: NDA agonises over bruising defeat in Bihar

“We have divided the state into seven clusters and Amit Shah will address public meetings in each. I had a talk with him and he will shortly give the dates to us. In Bengal, our pitch will be BJP’s development versus stagnation of the state under the ruling party,” he said.

As in the past couple of years, Amit Shah was listed as the main speaker for the Utthan Divas meeting in Kolkata. He will now visit West Bengal late in December and address two rallies in Kolkata and Siliguri, sources said.

In January, Prime Minister Modi and other senior leaders such as Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley will hold a series of rallies in the state.

“We have requested Modiji to speak at public meetings on January 12 and 23. On January 23, the declassification of the Netaji files with the Centre will start and we want the Prime Minister to be in Bengal on that day,” Sinha said.

Modi had earlier announced that the government will begin declassifying the secret files from January 23.

State BJP leaders have also decided to organise a “mega rally” on November 30 with the participation of leaders such as Kailash Vijayvargiya and Sidharth Nath Singh.

Read | BJP quells disquiet after Bihar loss with ‘collective responsibility’

The BJP will organise rallies in other parts of the state on November 30. In early December, the party will launch a “Jail Bharo Andolan” in the state to protest against the “deteriorating” law and order situation, misrule and the Saradah scam. Leaders and workers will court arrest in different parts of the state.

According to sources in the BJP, the Modi-Shah leadership is being questioned after the drubbing in Bihar by senior leaders such as LK Advani.

Moreover, opposition leaders like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee are keen on an anti-BJP platform at the national level.

The BJP leadership wants the situation to become clear before party chief Shah holds rallies in West Bengal.

Sinha put up put up a brave face, saying: “The Bihar results will have no impact in Bengal. At least Nitish delivered 10% of what he promised. But here Mamata Banerjee did nothing but establish a ‘jungle raj’. The Left Front ruled Bengal for 34 years but failed to do anything in neighbouring Bihar. After losing in Delhi, the BJP won in neighbouring Haryana,” he argued.

The BJP claimed chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to move closer to parties such as the Congress and the Left. “She is scared, therefore, she is trying to have a tacit understanding with Sonia Gandhi and holding the hands of the Left secretly,” Sinha said.

Read | Shatrughan Sinha says BJP must fix responsibility for Bihar loss

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