Has Amit Shah started the Bengal triumph campaign?
Even before the results for Bihar elections were announced, Union Minister and former BJP President Amit Shah started his Bengal task by visiting the state and reviewing the preparations for the 2021 Assembly election in Bengal. During the visit, Amit Shah urged the people of Bengal to give a chance to Narendra Modi in the Bengal election which is most likely to be conducted in April next year.
After facing a major setback in Bihar, Amit Shah promised to transform Bengal into “Sonar Bangla” state in the next five years, claiming that his party will win 200 seats.
Shah’s visit also set the agenda of wooing the scheduled caste and Adivasi voters. His two lunches during the visit were at a Matua (SC) and a Adivasi household. His visit would have also eased the internal tension in the party’s Bengal ranks. An internal conflict was seen after senior leader Rahul Sinha was dropped as national secretary and former Trinamool Congress leaders like Anupam Hazra and Mukul Roy were given posts.
Mukul Roy has been made vice president, who was once Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s virtual number 2 in the TMC.
How BJP is planning the Bengal election
After a great performance in Bengal in the last year’s general election, Mamta Banerjee would be worried about the increasing foothold of BJP in the state. BJP has never been in power in the state.
During the Durga Puja in October, Prime Minister Modi addressed the Puja Pandals for the first time to catch the attention of Bengal’s residents through their most popular festival. PM Modi also paid tribute to the most famous daughters and sons of Bengal and even spoke few words of the Bengali language.
What Amit Shah would like to utilize?
BJP has maintained over the years that Mamata Banerjee is a minority appeaser and she polarizes the votes of Muslims in the state. Bengal is one such state which has seen many communal acts of violence in the decades preceding 1947- be it Great Calcutta Killings and Noakhali Tipperia riots in 1946 or the Mymensingh riot of 1906. In the following decades, distrust and communal feelings never went away, fuelled by the refugees flooding the state regularly and partly by examples of Muslims doing better in professions and business. There are around 30 per cent Muslim voters in Bengal, who are TMC supporters. BJP’s play would be to gain the support of these 70 per cent voters who are non-Muslims.
Also, there is a significant rage against the TMC government in the state, but not always against Mamata Banerjee. The alleged complicity between the party functionaries and criminals in the cattle smuggling and mining sand is a serious concern, however, most people believe that Mamata is personally not involved in it.
BJP has cited the example of Tripura and said that having the same party in power in both the state and the Centre, the development would accelerate. Although the lack of a mass leader in the state has been a problem for BJP, few BJP leaders actually see it as a benefit, as the battle lines will be drawn between Modi and Mamata.
What is Mamata Banerjee’s play?
Mamata Banerjee on the other side has taken several countermeasures since the Lok Sabha results where she won 22 seats and BJP won 18. She tweeted a tribute to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, one of the base pillars of the saffron party, on his birthday and agreed to PM on naming an airport on his name. She has taken several trips to districts to meet people and expand the ambit of her connection with the people.
Her management of the global pandemic and the relief after the Amphan cyclone can be a big plus apart from the support of traditional leftists. The Bengal CM has maintained over the years that Bengal should be run by Bengalis and not the outsiders (targeting Kailash Vijayvargia, BJP Bengal Chief). Her Bengali sub-nationalism against the Hindutva politics didn’t excel in the 2019 general elections. It remains to be seen, how her plans work out in 2021 election.
In the last election, BJP had emerged as the real challenger to the Mamata Banerjee by gaining more than 40 per cent of total votes, only 3 per cent less than TMC. They jumped from 2 seats in 2014 to 18 in 2019 general elections. In the leadership of Amit Shah, the party is keen to overcome the disruptions caused by the coronavirus and build up a campaign momentum for the Assembly elections.
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