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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Bengal on BJP radar: Amit Shah makes 3-day trip, takes on Mamata in her backyard

BJP chief Amit Shah spent two days in Bengal reaching out to voters in Naxalbari and Bhabanipur, which is CM Mamata Banerjee’s constituency.

india Updated: May 10, 2017 07:21 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New delhi
BJP chief Amit Shah at Sealdah station in Kolkata on Wednesday, during his three-day visit to West Bengal.
BJP chief Amit Shah at Sealdah station in Kolkata on Wednesday, during his three-day visit to West Bengal.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has trouble brewing in her backyard – a resurgent BJP.

BJP chief Amit Shah spent the last two days in Bengal reaching out to voters in Bhabanipur and Naxalbari, the birthplace of Left-wing extremism in India. Bhabanipur is Banerjee’s assembly constituency.

“Bengal symbolises unemployment, violence and appeasement politics,” Shah said after lunch at the house of a tribal registered as a voter in Naxalbari. “The BJP is different.”

Shah has his eye set on Bengal and other coastal states where the BJP wants to expand, which he hopes will give the party even more seats in 2019 than it had managed in 2014.

BJP’s hopes in Bengal are based on two counts.

First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains a popular figure across the country. It helped the BJP secure 17% votes in 2014. The party expects the pro-poor schemes of the Modi government to lay the roads for BJP’s entry in the eastern state that lags behind on many indicators of development.

Second, the decline of Left forces in Bengal and little sign of revival of Congress’ fortunes makes it all the more exciting for the BJP. With a section of Banerjee loyalists sulking and some prominent faces of the Trinamool Congress behind bars, the BJP finds the West Bengal chief minister a much easier challenge to handle than what she was in 2016.

And Shah wants the BJP to capitalise on the weakness of rivals.

“We may not win Bengal in 2021, but there are bright chances to emerge as the number two party, if we play our cards well,” a BJP general secretary said.

The BJP polled over 10% vote in the 2016 assembly elections and picked 3 seats in North Bengal. In 2011, it polled just 4% votes and did not win even a single seat.

Now, the strategy: create buzz with high-profile visit to places of significance, appear taking Mamata head on and build a robust organisation.

The BJP boasts of a 43-lakh strong cadre base in Bengal, much bigger than 1.25 lakh workers it had till 2015. Its cadre size now covers 60,000 plus booths out of total 77,000 in Bengal.

“We are in the process of strengthening our booth committees in Bengal,” another BJP leader said.

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 14:27 IST