Shah kicks off ‘booth chalo’ drive in Naxalbari with lunch at villager’s hut
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Shah kicks off ‘booth chalo’ drive in Naxalbari with lunch at villager’s hut

With Bengal now a focus state for the BJP, the party’s president Amit Shah kicked off a ‘booth chalo’ programme on Tuesday from the hut of a scheduled tribe couple in a village in Naxalbari.

india Updated: May 10, 2017 07:21 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
BJP,'Booth chalo' programme,BJP in Bengal
BJP president Amit Shah and the party’s Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh during lunch at a scheduled tribe couple’s hut in Naxalbari in north Bengal on Tuesday.(HT PHOTO)

BJP president Amit Shah kicked off the party’s ‘booth chalo’ programme, an exercise to strengthen the party organisation at the grassroots level in Bengal at the cradle of left wing extremism in India, Naxalbari, in a symbolic manner with lunch at the hut of a scheduled tribe couple.

The meal, served on plantain leaves, was a frugal one consisting of daal, vegetables, rice, and roti.

With BJP’s Bengal president Dilip Ghosh to his right, Shah sat cross-legged on the floor of the hut with tin roofs and walls in South Kotiajot village in Naxalbari block and ate his meal.

Shah was seen chatting with Gita Mahali who cooked the meal. Her husband is a labourer. The woman seemed overawed by the situation.

The BJP has started showing interest in Naxalbari where left wing extremism was born 50 years ago with the killing of a police officer and 11 villagers falling to retaliatory police firing the next day.

Hatighisha, the village of legendary Naxalite leader Kanu Sanyal was adopted by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia as a model village after he was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014. While campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi had said in north Bengal that the BJP would change the face of Naxalbari and alleged that the Mamata Banerjee government had done little for it.

“BJP will get the maximum number of seats in 2019 (Lok Sabha) polls. The history of violence started from this Naxalbari. This is where the Prime Minister’s slogan ‘Saab ka saath, saab kaa vikash’ will be given shape,” said Shah after a meeting with the party workers. He also said that BJP workers will visit every home in every village of Bengal.

“BJP workers are being attacked in Bengal. The more they are attacked, the more BJP will rise in the state,” said Shah.

After he landed in Siliguri on Tuesday morning, the BJP president changed his plans and decided to go to Mahali’s house and have his meal instead of holding a meeting with party workers.

As far as symbolisms go, the party chose this particular house, scrapping the original venue which was the house of the lone BJP panchayat member of the area.

After lunch, Shah met booth level workers of the party. He was accompanied by BJP leaders such as national secretary Rahul Sinha and Bengal observer Kailash Vijayvargiya.

The ‘booth chalo’ drive is an exercise designed to focus on strengthening the party organisation at the grassroots level.

When Shah was touring Naxalbari, Mamata Banerjee was attending a public meeting organised by the Kamtapur Progressive Party at Rashmela grounds in Cooch Behar district about 200 kms away. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls KPP supported BJP, but in 2016 Assembly elections it threw its weight behind TMC after its leaders assured the KPP to recognise Rajbonshi language.

On Wednesday, Shah will visit a few households in Bhawanipore, the constituency of Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, where he will hold a similar exercise.

On Thursday, Shah will meet party leaders and intellectuals and prominent citizens in Kolkata’s Mahajati Sadan on April 27. In the 1,200-capacity auditorium, there will be 800 party leaders and workers from the five organisational districts into which they divide Kolkata. Intellectuals and prominent citizens will be invited to fill up the remaining 400 seats.

Bengal is now a focus state for the BJP with Shah going on record recently in Bhubaneswar that the party’s golden age depends on whether it can win Bengal, Odisha and Kerala.

In Bengal, the party has traditionally been a marginal player with three MLAs in an Assembly of 294 in its best show. The BJP wants to make a dent in the 2018 rural polls in Bengal, which it also wants to use to fine tune its bid in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

After the renewed vigour post UP polls, the saffron camp have organised Ram Navami celebrations in an unprecedented scale in the state. On April 9 in the Assembly by-poll in Kanthi Dakshin, one of the bastions of Trinamool Congress, BJP raised its vote share from 9% in 2006 to 31%, further boosting the morale of its workers.

First Published: Apr 25, 2017 17:51 IST