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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Academics, professionals return to Bengal to campaign for BJP

All those who came to Bengal told locals that BJP-ruled states have progressed a lot, thanks to appropriate policies and vision.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 18, 2019 15:30 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
All those who came to Bengal told locals that BJP-ruled states have progressed a lot
All those who came to Bengal told locals that BJP-ruled states have progressed a lot(PTI)

Schooled in Kolkata but based in Delhi for 35 years, Shoma Mukherji returned to her old city in the second week of April with the specific objective of urging people she knows to make a contribution to save Bengal from what she termed as “the culture of violence” perpetrated by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Mukherji, who teaches at the Delhi School of Business, held informal discussions with friends, well-wishers and acquaintances to help restore Bengal’s cultural and industrial heritage. She also participated in election rallies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates from Kolkata South and Dumdum constituencies during her weeklong stay at her home in south Kolkata.

“As a Bengali, I feel deeply concerned about the decline of the state under the successive regimes of the Left and the TMC. In Kolkata, I told people I know that Bengal needs change,” Mukherji said.

She is one of more than 100 Bengali academics and professionals residing in cities outside Bengal, who came to their native places to ‘initiate dialogue’ among friends and acquaintances for a change of regime in the state. Most were small gathering -- almost like tea parties -- in individual houses, apart from telephonic discussions with old friends.

“These civil society members visited Bengal as volunteers of the ‘Save Bengal’ campaign. They bore their own expenses and took leaves from office to campaign for a change in Bengal,” said Animesh Biswas, co-convenor of the Save Bengal campaign.

The campaign was launched in New Delhi in November 2018 in the presence of BJP Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh. Its national convener, Anirban Ganguly, is a member of the BJP’s central policy research wing.

A brainchild of the party’s national joint general secretary (organisation) Shiv Prakash a tri-lingual portal was also launched in November for publishing blogs and articles on issues concerning Bengal.

The campaign’s logo comprises photos of Bengal’s iconic personalities, including intellectuals and freedom fighters such as spiritual leaders (Sri Chaitanya, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda), revolutionaries (Kshudiram, Subhas Bose, Jyatindranath Mukherjee), social reformers (Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar) and authors (Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhayay). Bharatiya Jana Sangha-founder Syama Prasad Mookerji is the only political personality in the logo.

The Bengalis settled outside started arriving in the state from early April, about a week before the first phase of polls on April 11.

Noida-based Padmanava Lahiri came to campaign in Jadavpur, addressed street-corner meetings and walked along BJP’s Jadavpur candidate Anupam Hazra in road shows. Prithviraj Patra, a doctor at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, visited his native places in East and West Midnapore districts, met local doctors, teachers and lawyers and campaigned for BJP’s Kanthi candidate Debashish Samanta, who, too, is a doctor.

Shyamal Sil, who works at the Delhi-office of a German company, visited his native place in Hooghly district in April to engage in conversations with local members of the civil society. “We tried to clear misconception that BJP-ruled states faced communal tension,” said Sil.

“Our campaign is aimed at weaning Bengal’s civil society in various small and big towns through discussions about how Bengal’s cultural and economic heritage can be restored,” said Debopriyo Chowdhury, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, who owns an advertising agency and a restaurant. He spent a month and a half in North 24 Parganas district.

“We initiated dialogue in tea stalls, while travelling in public transport and paying courtesy visits to friends and relatives,” said Sushanta Kar, a Delhi-based IT employee. Kar visited nearly half a dozen Lok Sabha constituencies in Bengal in April to coordinate between volunteers.

All those who came to the state told locals that BJP-ruled states have progressed a lot, thanks to appropriate policies and vision.

“Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly said that the BJP is sending people from outside to destabilise Bengal. However, outsiders can’t influence elections in Bengal,” said Tapan Dasgupta, minister and the Hooghly district president of the TMC.

As a part of the ‘Save Bengal’ campaign, closed-door meetings were held over the past six months in Bengali-dominated localities in New Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Roorkee and Bengaluru, among other cities, from where volunteers were selected for (Lok Sabha) poll campaign in Bengal.