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Post UP, BJP to focus on Bengal

With 42 Lok Sabha seats, Bengal is the third biggest state in terms of presence in the lower house of the Parliament. BJP strategy in Bengal may feature prominently in party national executive meeting in Delhi in mid-April.

kolkata Updated: Mar 23, 2017 19:14 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya
Both the historic victory in the UP Assembly polls and the supreme court’s verdict upholding CBI investigation in Narada sting operation will add momentum to BJP’s drive in Bengal before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Both the historic victory in the UP Assembly polls and the supreme court’s verdict upholding CBI investigation in Narada sting operation will add momentum to BJP’s drive in Bengal before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.(HT Photo)

After its exploits in Uttar Pradesh, BJP has trained its focus on Bengal, the state with the third highest Lok Sabha seats. The party is targeting at least 22 seats in the state that has 42 seats in the lower house of the Parliament.

The situation in Bengal is expected to feature prominently in BJP’s national executive meeting on April 15-16 in Delhi, where a detailed road map may be finalised. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah are supposed to attend.

Read: Assembly elections done, Modi, Shah to rejig BJP and govt after budget session

The Calcutta high court’s decision to order CBI investigation in Narada tapes and the apex court’s endorsement of it will also serve as a potent tool in the hands of BJP that plans to hit the streets with a campaign against Trinamool Congress, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and those leaders of the party seen accepting cash in the sting operation.

“Our national president Amit Shah has already made it clear that in 2019 the road to Delhi would go through Bengal. After Uttar Pradesh which has 80 seats and Maharastra that has 48, Bengal is the third biggest with 42 seats. We are keeping a minimum target of 22 seats,” Dilip Ghosh, state BJP president, told HT.

Besides it spectacular success in UP, BJP has fared well in Maharashtra municipal polls where it became the single largest party in Nashik, Pune, Ulhasnagar, Solapur, Nagpur, Amravati, Akola, Pimpri-Chinchwad apart from running neck to neck in Mumbai with Shiv Sena. But in Bengal despite a steady growth in its vote share, its show has been lacklustre, and the party is yet to secure a foothold in terms of seats.

State BJP president DIlip Ghosh and national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya are expected to play more active roles in Bengal. (HT Photo)

BJP has only two MPs and three MLAs in the state.

“In the national executive meeting, we will submit our state report that will include attacks on party workers and rise of fundamentalism in the state. In Uttar Pradesh between 2012 and 2017 our vote share rose 24.7%. There is no reason why we cannot replicate the performance in Bengal,” said Sayantan Basu, BJP state general secretary.

Read: RSS meet in Coimbatore fuels speculation of BJP push in Tamil Nadu

For the past few years, BJP leaders have also been highlighting infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh and the rise of fundamentalism. For the Sangh Parivar, both Assam and Bengal have been states with high importance. While BJP has already grabbed power in Assam, it has remained a marginal player in Bengal in number of seats.

On Sunday (March 19), RSS slammed the Mamata Banerjee government for remaining a mute spectator to attacks by Muslim fundamentalists and appeasing the ‘jihadis’ during its National Executive Council Meet in Nagpur.

“We have already requested our central leadership, including party President Amit Shah, to visit Bengal. It is expected that he will visit by end-April or May. The outcome of the UP Assembly polls had a positive effect on our workers here. We are concentrating on consolidating booth level organisation,” added Ghosh.

BJP leaders in Bengal hope that Amit Shah will visit the state to address a series of public meetings soon. (HT Photo)

Apart from Dilip Ghosh, party national general secretary Rahul Sinha and Subrata Chatterjee state general secretary (organisation) is expected to participate in the national executive meet.

Despite the poor show in number of seats, more and more people are turning to BJP. Its vote share has been on a steady rise in Bengal from 6% in 2009 Lok sabha polls to 16.8% (Lok Sabha polls) in 2014 when it got two seats.

In the 2016 Assembly polls it got 10.2 % votes but got only three MLAs. In the Lok Sabha by polls in Cooch Behar in 2016, BJP’s vote share reached 28.5%, though the seat went to ruling Trinamool Congress.