TMC eroded, BJP will win over 200 seats, says Amit Shah
Shah said in an interview that his assessment that the party will win over 200 of the 294 assembly seats in the state is based on the fact that the BJP has “strengthened its presence on the ground and in 85% of the booths”.
Union home minister Amit Shah is convinced his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will form the government in West Bengal and Assam; that it will be part of the winning combination (their AIADMK-led alliance) in Tamil Nadu; and that it will improve its performance, in terms of seats in both Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
Of these, it is the West Bengal elections that will be the most closely watched. The Trinamool Congress wrested power from the CPI(M)-led Left Front government that ruled the state for 34 straight years in 2011. The BJP was an insignificant presence in the state at the time. Since then, though, the party has grown — it won only two of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014, when it swept to power nationally, but increased this to 18 in 2019 when it returned to power in New Delhi. Its vote share, at 42.2%, compared well with the TMC’s 43.3%.
Shah said in an interview that his assessment that the party will win over 200 of the 294 assembly seats in the state is based on the fact that the BJP has “strengthened its presence on the ground and in 85% of the booths”. He added that there has been an “erosion in the TMC camp” at the same time. The BJP has actively encouraged this erosion, with several defectors from the TMC joining it — most notably, Mamata Banerjee’s protégé Suvendu Adhikari is now taking on his erstwhile mentor in Nandigram — but Shah pointed out that the party has also grown organically. Still, the significant number of turncoats that has been granted tickets to contest the polls has caused heartburn among party workers, with protests by BJP workers in some parts of the state, but Shah made light of these. “These things will not impact the election,” he said. “The election is of the people of Bengal and our cadre is with us and we are working together for change.”
At a rally in Purulia district on Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the BJP is advertising tall claims about what it will do for the people of Bengal, but the party has reneged on promises made in its manifesto for the assembly elections in Assam and Tripura. She alleged that the Centre is selling off government concerns and only Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “factory of lies” will remain.
Shah rejected the contention that his party was trying to polarise the electorate on religious lines.
“If giving voice to issues that matter to the people of West Bengal is seen as religious polarisation, then it’s a new definition of polarisation I have come across. We say there should be unfettered celebrations for Durga Puja; why should anyone object to it? So why did they (TMC) stop it?... The BJP has not said a word against any religious celebration; we do not have any objection to anyone observing Ramzan or holding Christmas celebrations,” he said.
The BJP has had to walk the tightrope when it comes to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, pitching for it in West Bengal (where there is a recurrent narrative of illegal migrants from across the border in Bangladesh) and soft-pedaling the issue in Assam where the majority fears that the law could legitimise the claims of outsiders (a sensitive issue in the state). “I will only say that CAA is a central law,” said Shah.
He added that there is “nothing left for (the Congress) in Assam”, and suggested that the BJP would return to power in the state comfortably because of the “government’s achievements”.