Are there schools in every village of Bengal? Is there electricity in every village? Does an ambulance reach within 11 minutes of a phone call? “All these happen in BJP- ruled states,” said BJP president Amit Shah as he launched his Bengal Yatra from a football ground near Burdwan town, aggressively selling the development plank with liberal rhetorical flourish.
It was beyond Mamata Banerjee to work for the development of Bengal, or to create employment opportunities for the state’s youths, as her party was busy trying to wriggle out of the Saradha scam and cover up the terror hub that it had created in the state, Shah said, standing barely five km from the house in Khagragarh where the explosives went off.
This was the first meeting of the BJP president’s much-discussed tour of the state, during which he is supposed to hold meetings with party workers and address public rallies in every district.
Significantly, on Tuesday, Amit Shah dwelt at length on the development plank, giving a clear indication that he is treating this as an election pitch. “Modiji not only means development, but, in the past seven months, he has already started delivering, too. In its 10-year tenure, the UPA government couldn’t tame inflation. But the Modi government has already brought prices down. In seven months, it has slashed the prices of petrol and diesel 10 times,” said the BJP boss, adding that the rate of inflation, too, had come down from 6.5% to 1.5%.
“The situation has improved in these seven months, enabling even an ordinary family to save anything between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 4,500 per month,” Shah claimed. A capacity crowd, estimated at well over 50,000 by district BJP leaders and containing colourful sections, such as Adivasi dancers in full festive gear, cheered Shah while he spoke.
A host of BJP leaders, including national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh, state president Rahul Sinha and former state president Tathagata Roy, also spoke. All of them attacked the Mamata Banerjee government on such issues as atrocities on women, the wave of violence sweeping the state, the Saradha scam, reluctance of the government to hand over the terror probe to the NIA and Saradha to the CBI, and so on. Only Shah dwelt on the development agenda and how only the BJP could fulfill the aspirations of the people of Bengal. In the party circles, Shah is known as a key strategist, who focuses on micro-management at the booth levels to maximize support in the ballot boxes. He also advocates door- to- door campaigns through a grassroots-level organization, much like the Left Front leaders who employed these twin means as some of their tools that kept them in power for 34 years.
Before reaching the football ground at 3.05pm, the BJP president addressed his party workers for 30-35 minutes, where he floated a plan to set up booth suraksha committees to resist the strong-arm tactics of the ruling party.