‘Born and brought up in Bengal’: Amit Shah on poll-bound state’s next CM
- Shah talked of the BJP’s yet to be named chief ministerial candidate while criticizing Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee for branding BJP leaders visiting Bengal from other states as bohiragato or outsiders.
Stoking speculation on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) search for a chief ministerial candidate before the Bengal assembly polls to be held in March-April, Union home minister Amit Shah on Friday said a bhoomiputra (son of the soil) born and brought up in Bengal would be the next chief minister if his party wins the race.
At a conclave held by a national television channel in Kolkata, Shah, who was on a two-day visit to the state to attend campaign rallies and flag-off the BJPs fifth Rath Yatra, touched upon several issues, saying the BJP will not be tagged as a communal force in a few years from now and the race for the second position in the Bengal polls will be a close one with the Congress, Left and cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui trying to forge an alliance.
He also said chief minister Mamata Banerjee is not an overhyped leader but has failed.
Shah talked of the BJP’s yet to be named chief ministerial candidate while criticizing Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee for branding BJP leaders visiting Bengal from other states as bohiragato or outsiders.
“TMC has started a flawed campaign about outsiders coming to Bengal. The next chief minister will obviously be a Bengali. Is Mamata Banerjee trying to create a Bengal where nobody from any part of the country can come? How could Subhas Chandra Bose be president of the Congress party? How could Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram be recognized by the entire nation? Isn’t there any image of a nation?” said Shah.
“I have said 25 times that the next chief minister will be a son of the soil who was born and brought up in Bengal. If Mamata Banerjee tries to divide people on the outsider issue I must say she does not know Bengalis. The parliamentary board of our party has not decided the chief ministerial candidate yet,” he added.
“A whole team of our party is working on this. A lot of eminent people are joining the party. If you look around you might see the next cabinet,” he quipped.
“I do not think Mamata Banerjee is an overhyped leader. She is a big leader and has been chief minister twice. But she has failed and people have realized that. I do not nullify her political ideology,” said Shah.
Asked whether Banerjee is right now his biggest rival in national politics, Shah said, “I don’t want to reply to these questions. All I can say is there is no leader who comes close to Modi Ji.”
Asked whether Banerjee’s defeat will help alter the scenario in the nation’s opposition politics, Shah said, “I have no problem if people want to live in ivory towers. What scenario are we talking about? We are winning all elections in the country. Does the current scenario show opposition leaders winning? Is the scenario showing a single opposition leader?”
“The TMC’s fate in this election depends on the alliance of the Congress, Left and Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif. They are joining hands I am told. I can’t say who will come second in the race because contest for that position will be a close one. We are aiming for more than 200 seats. That will be a satisfactory performance,” said Shah.
The Bengal assembly has 294 seats.
“There was a time when division of votes cast against her helped Mamata Ji. I have clearly analysed that this time there will be a split in anti-BJP votes. The more parties take part the more will be our margin of victory. We have already secured our votes. Now, there will be a split in anti-BJP votes,” he said.
Asked about the frequent defections from the TMC, Shah said, “In many states people from other parties joined us and we ran the governments successfully, be it Assam, Manipur, Uttaranchal or Uttarakhand. The BJP has a great digestive system. BJP governments are run by the BJP’s organization.”
The BJP was branded as a communal party during the regime of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, said Shah.
“The BJP does not believe in religion-based politics. We follow the Constitution. All citizens are equal. You (the media) can do calculations on the 30 per cent minority votes in Bengal. For us, all are Bengalis. The communal tag was put on us during Indira Gandhi’s regime. It will be there for a few more years and eventually fade away,” he said.
“This is an election about people’s aspiration and their anger. It is about their desire to see change. This poll is not about campaign and malicious campaign. The TMC government is already gone. A government lives in the hearts of people. The government in Bengal right now is only living its tenure as per the Constitution,” said Shah.
The Union home minister blamed the Marxists for the violence that marks Bengal’s politics.
“Bengal was ruled by the communists for a long time and hence violence has crept into its political culture. This cannot be Bengal’s culture. We are confident that we will be able to uproot it after the parivartan (change),” he said.
Asked whether violence will mark the coming elections, Shah said, “So many people have connected to the BJP that even goondas (miscreants) will not dare to start violence. There are already many miscreants in Bengal. The last elections witnessed violence. Is it acceptable that the high court has to allow filing of nomination through WhatsApp? Does Mamata Banerjee have any answer? This happened because there was no alternative. The BJP has emerged as an alternative.”
Talking about deployment of central forces for security of BJP leaders in Bengal Shah said, “This is just the beginning. In the coming days miscreants of the TMC will have to seek security.”
Asked if Marxists and Left intellectuals who led the farmers stir in Delhi will have an effect on the Bengal polls, Shah said, “The Left movement has died in India. Few of the remaining people cannot change the fate of the nation. In a democracy all are free to express views but people take the decision.”
During his last visit, Shah announced at a rally held by the Matua community, who represent a big section of the Namasudra or Hindu Dalit population, that the new citizenship law would be enforced in Bengal and rest of the nation after the Covid-19 vaccination is over.
On Friday, he said, “The citizenship law is not applicable to Bengal only. It is the nation’s law. For 70 years the Congress had been promising to give citizenship rights to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists who came to the country as refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and East and West Pakistan. Nobody fulfilled that promise. We declared in 2018 that we will give them citizenship and we brought the Citizenship Amendment Act within one year. As far as completing the process is concerned these people cannot be removed from the India because the Modi government gave them long-term visas in 2018. The process of giving citizenship will start soon.”
“The Matua community knows very well that Mamata Banerjee cannot be trusted because she is saying openly that she will not allow the citizenship law to be enforced. She says it will upset her votes. CAA is not a political issue for us. It is a matter of doing justice millions of Indians,” he said.
Elaborating on why he keeps repeating his promise on turning the state into Sonar Bangla (golden Bengal) Shah said, “Sonar Bangla means a land where people live without fear, the borders are protected, the poor have food, youths have jobs and the administration is on the right path. Sonar Bangla means taking Bengal back to the point where it contributed the most to the GDP. It means arousing the prestige of Bengal and restoring the rich culture that has been silenced by the noise of bomb blasts. Sonar Bangla does not mean only economic prosperity.”
Shah talked at length on the TMC government depriving Bengal’s people, including farmers, of Central social welfare schemes. “Modi Ji has announced that once we are in power here the farmers will get current and arrear payments towards Kishan Samman Nidhi. The money will be transferred to their bank accounts without any cut money (kickback).”
Shah said Bengal’s culture has become an election issue because the culture has been misused. “Bombs and explosions were never a part of Bengal’s culture. Neither was poll violence or dynastic rule,” he said.
Asked whether defection of so many TMC leaders has helped him decode Banerjee’s political strategy, Shah said, “There is no need for us to decode anything because it has already been done by Bengal’s people… This government has left their hearts. Only a constitutional process remains to be completed.”
Shah refused to directly comment on his frequent visits to the state.
“Modi Ji is our biggest face in this election. But it is the situation in Bengal that it is his biggest concern. Any Prime Minister would be concerned. The state has international borders and it is also the gateway to the North-East. It is only natural that people would be concerned.”
Asked whether he feels helpless as Union home minister during his visits to Bengal. “Helplessness cannot help anyone. One has to fight a situation and change it.”
Referring to the triangular contest, Shah said, “I have been coming to Bengal since 2017. I am coming more frequently now. Our agenda is not to oust Mamata Banerjee. Our agenda is to establish good governance. We want people to enjoy the benefits of Central schemes. Why should the poor be deprived of free medical treatment worth ₹5 lakh every year? None of the 115 central schemes are enforced in Bengal.”
“In five years the Centre gave ₹3.59 lakh crore to the state but the money was spent on TMC workers. All corruption in Bengal should be probed,” he said.
“Mamata Banerjee will hear the Jai Sri Ram slogan everywhere if she travels in an open jeep. I just hope she does not rush to beat people up. She gets irritated by that slogan just like the British who used to be irritated by the chanting of Vande Mataram. What can I do about it?” said Shah.