Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah, who arrived in Kolkata on Wednesday, held strategic closed door meetings with party leaders and workers as he launched poll preparations in West Bengal, the one state which the saffron party has been unable to make a dent in.
On Thursday, Shah will visit the Tarapith Temple in Birbhum district and offer prayers. Following that, he will address a public meeting in Purulia and meet family members of two BJP activists — 35-year-old Dulal Kumar and 20-year-old Trilochan Mahato — who were killed in Purulia district on 2 June and 31 May respectively.
Purulia, located on the West Bengal-Jharkhand border, has emerged as the latest flashpoint of the rivalry between Mamata Banerjee's TMC and BJP, which is making efforts to increase its footprint in the state. The Purulia killings were highlighted by the BJP to attack the state government regarding the state's law and order situation, and the BJP president is expected to bring it up again during his trip to the state.
Though the eastern state is a TMC stronghold, the BJP was enthused by its performance in the panchayat polls. The state BJP unit also prepared a blueprint 12 months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which will be submitted to Shah during his visit.
According to West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, BJP's performance in the panchayat polls, despite ruling TMC's "reign of terror", accelerated the ground-level political situation of the state, reported PTI.
Shah had earlier set a target of winning 22 seats in the Lok Sabha polls, but following the "good performance" in the rural polls, where it stood second and outperformed the CPM and Congress, Shah has increased this target to 26.
Be it tribal-dominated districts like Purulia, Jhargram, West Midnapore, Bankura or north Bengal districts like Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur or even Muslim-dominated Malda, the saffron party's performance in rural polls has cemented its position as the main Opposition in the state, relegating the CPM and the Congress to third and fourth positions respectively.
However, the gap between TMC and BJP is still wide, if the overall rural polls and Assembly bypoll results were to be taken into consideration. BJP presently has two Lok Sabha seats — Asansol and Darjeeling — in the state.
Here's a look at how the saffron party plans to take on the TMC in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2019 in West Bengal:
Speaking to party workers on Wednesday, the BJP chief exhorted state leaders to reach out to the masses to prepare for an all-out battle against the alleged misrule of the TMC, a party leader said. "He (Shah) has asked us to prepare for an all-out fight so that we can win maximum number of seats. He had earlier given us a target of 22 seats. But now he has told us to fight hard for all 42 seats," a senior BJP leader who attended the meeting said. "He asked us to fan out in the districts to prepare for an all-out battle against the TMC's misrule."
Fifteen party leaders have been asked to cover 37 organisational districts in the state, and each of them has been asked to stay there for a fortnight, he added. "He (Shah) has asked us to prepare a list of issues for the Lok Sabha polls," the BJP leader said.
Shah also directed the state unit leaders to hold rallies to apprise the people in every block of the state of the Modi government's development programmes, he said.
The party has appointed observers for each of the 42 Lok Sabha seats as well as the Assembly constituencies in the state to strengthen its booth-level organisation. According to the state leadership, Shah will seek a report on the creation of committees at all booths, a target he had set during his visit in September in 2017.
"We have been able to reach out to 60-70 percent booths. Our primary objective is to take our organisation to all the booths of the state and strengthen it," BJP national general secretary and in-charge of Bengal, Kailash Vijayvergiya, told PTI earlier.
During another closed door meeting of the party's social media convention, Shah asked party workers to use social media as a tool to combat the TMC government in the state and inform people about the Modi government's policies at the Centre, the BJP leader said.
"Shah has asked us reach out at the booth level, both physically and using social media. In order to reach out to the masses in villages, he has asked us to use Bengali medium of instruction to access social media," he said.
The BJP president also pointed out the need to use online platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter to fight against the rumour mongering by Opposition parties, the BJP leader added.
Focus on latest technology
The news agency PTI had earlier reported that as the BJP steadily increased its presence in West Bengal, the party's state unit began scouting for spacious, well-equipped new offices in Kolkata and other parts of the city to keep up with the flurry of activities ahead of the next general election.
The BJP is planning to shift its state headquarters at 6 Muralidhar Sen Street in central Kolkata to a spacious place nearby, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, due 2019.
"We are looking for new places, both in districts and in the city for setting up new party offices. In some of the districts, the office has been built and in some other places, work is on," Ghosh told PTI. "In Kolkata, we are planning to take a new place on rent near our party office ahead of the Lok Sabha polls."
Roping in intellectuals
On the issue of roping in intellectuals, who act as catalysts in creating public opinion and have been a notable factor in decimating the 34-year-old Left Regime, the state BJP unit is yet to taste considerable success. The party's central leadership has stressed the need to rope in intellectuals and had asked the state unit to create an IT cell.
"We have met more than 500 intellectuals in the last few months but not many of them have come forward to join us. During the last two intellectuals' meet, we have not been able to rope anyone prominent. We hope things are different this time," another BJP leader on the condition of anonymity had told PTI.
Ghosh along with a senior BJP central leader had approached Samir Aich, an eminent painter, and requested him to attend the meet. "But he was not interested in attending the meet," he said.
Aich along with other intellectuals had stood by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee during her anti-land acquisition struggle, but later became a critic of the TMC government and its policies.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jun 28, 2018 13:35:37 IST