BJP’s membership drive a hit in Vidyasagar College
More than 200 students from Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College, which had become the epicentre of violence during Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s Lok Sabha poll campaign in mid-May, have joined the saffron party, a BJP functionary claimed on Wednesday.
On May 14, a mob had vandalised a bust of 19th century social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in the college during Shah’s roadshow, triggering a violent clash between BJP and Trinamool Congress supporters.
While both parties had played blame a game over the issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to install a statue of the 19thcentury Bengal renaissance icon made of ashtadhatu [eight precious metals] on the college campus.
On June 11, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee unveiled a new statue of Vidyasagar.
“About 250 students and some college staff have become members of our party since the launch of the membership drive. Some of them became members using Narendra Modi App, while others took up membership during our campaign in front of the Vidyasagar College on Tuesday,” said Pankaj Singhania, vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s Uttar Kolkata district unit. The BJYM is the youth wing of the BJP.
Buoyed by its spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, the BJP is carrying out a massive membership drive, eyeing 1 crore members from the state. The saffron party won 18 out of 42 seats in the state, up from just 2 in the 2014 polls. The ruling TMC secured 22 seats, down from 34 in the last elections.
On Tuesday, the BJP launched a membership campaign in the College Street area in north Kolkata.
The move came days after the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP’s ideological mentor, opened its unit in the college.
“The Vidyasagar College unit comprising 30 members was formed barely a few days after the statue was demolished. Students who were shocked to see how the TMC student wing members orchestrated and chaos and demolished Vidyasagar’s bust in a conspiracy hatched to malign joined us. These students could not accept the low the TMC stooped to,” said Mrinmay Das, ABVP’s Kolkata metropolitan unit secretary.
The ABVP, however, has asked its college unit members to maintain a low key until the college elections are announced.
Sanu Makal, president of Vidyasagar College unit of the TMC’s student wing, rejected BJP’s claims, saying those joining the party were not college students but some passersby.
“Some passersby dropped by to enrol themselves with BJP when the membership drive was on. None of them were college students. BJP is spreading false information to confuse the students and the people. All students of the college were shocked and ashamed of BJP’s vandalism at the college,” Makal said.