West Bengal Assembly Elections: BJP vows real change, 'game on', says Mamata; campaign for first phase ends
The campaign for the seats saw high profile leaders of BJP, which has emerged as the main opposition to the ruling TMC, addressing poll rallies in Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura districts promising 'ashol poriborton' (actual change) to build 'Sonar Bangla' (prosperous Bengal).
Campaigning for the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections came to an end at 5 pm on Thursday for the high decibel contest in 30 Assembly seats where polls are scheduled on 27 March.
The 30 seats are spread across tribal-dominated Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Purba Medinipur (Part 1) and Paschim Medinipur (Part 1) districts which were once considered the citadel of the Left.
The campaign for the seats saw high-profile BJP leaders of including Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, who have emerged as the main opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress, addressing poll rallies in Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura districts promising 'ashol poriborton' (actual change) to build 'Sonar Bangla' (prosperous Bengal).
Apart from the ruling TMC and BJP, the Left Front, in alliance with the Congress and newly-formed Indian Secular Front, has projected itself as the “third alternative force” in West Bengal and called for the need of a people’s welfare government.
Here is a list of constituencies that will vote in the first phase on Saturday.
|Constituency Number||Constituency Name|
Battle of the slogans
The most popular slogan that has emerged in this high-pitched election from the state is ‘khela hobe’ (game will be played) coined by the Trinamool Congress.
‘Khela hobe’ has become such a rage across the state that even West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s speeches are woven around it. “We are going to play such a game that we will throw the BJP out of the stadium," Banerjee was often heard at her public rallies.
The BJP countered this slogan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi using the slogan to take jibes at the ruling TMC. “Trinamool is saying khela hobe. Now it is khela sesh (the game is over) for Trinamool. Ebar vikas hobe (now there will be development),” the prime minister repeatedly said in his rallies.
The BJP attacked Mamata Banerjee's party for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the multi-crore rupees Saradha scam, the Narada tapes scandal, and alleged that money meant for Amphan relief was siphoned off.
The saffron party leaders attacked the Mamata Banerjee government for not allowing the implementation of Central schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi and 80 others aimed at helping the poor, Dalits, tribals and people from the marginalised sections.
The BJP leaders claimed that corruption and anarchy are prevalent in TMC-ruled West Bengal and that the party will put an end to the menace after coming to power in the state.
The saffron party leaders, including Modi, targeted TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee alleging that he was involved in cross-border cattle smuggling and the coal scam. In almost all of their rallies, the BJP also accused the TMC-government of its "cut money" culture and 'syndicate raj' in the state.
The star BJP campaigners for the seats going to poll in the first phase are Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
The other star campaigners of the saffron party were Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, party president Jagat Prakash Nadda, top leader Smriti Irani who repeatedly targetted the Banerjee government.
Bollywood megastar Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the saffron party, campaigned for BJP candidates at Jangalmahal and Bankura. His road shows became a huge hit as people from all walks of life gathered to hear him, throwing all caution for COVID-19 to the winds.
Apart from Mamata, TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee was the other star campaigner for the TMC party, who urged the people to vote for "Banglar nijer meye" (Bengal's own daughter) to live in peace.
In all, 191 candidates are in the fray, including 29 each from the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 18 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), six from the Congress, four from Communist Party of India and two from All India Forward Bloc.
|Seat||TMC candidate||BJP candidate|
|Medinipur||June Maliah||Samit Kumar|
Ashutosh Mahato (AJSU)
EC rebuts criticism over 'attack'
West Bengal Chief Minister held poll rallies in each of the 30 constituencies, her injured leg notwithstanding.
Buoyed by the alleged positive response to its ''insider versus outsider'' campaign, the TMC leadership has embraced ''Bengali pride'' and created a poll narrative of sub-nationalism to counter the BJP's identity politics.
Banerjee, after filing her nomination in Nandigram on 10 March, suffered severe injuries on her left leg, hips, arm, neck and shoulder as she fell down after allegedly being pushed by miscreants.
TMC leaders have claimed that BJP men orchestrated the attack, a charge denied by the saffron camp. The Election Commission said she suffered injuries following an accident and not an attack.
Banerjee also accused Union Home Minister Amit Shah of hatching a conspiracy to harass TMC leaders ahead of the Assembly elections in the state and wondered whether the Election Commission is working as per his instructions.
Claiming that Shah is getting "frustrated" by "poor turnout" at his rallies, the TMC supremo also alleged that the BJP is
plotting conspiracies to kill her as her security director Vivek Sahay was removed by the Election Commission after she
sustained injuries in Nandigram.
The TMC supremo in her campaign described the Modi government as "anti-people" and the prime minister a "liar". She also blamed him for not allowing the state government to give free coronavirus jabs to the people.
She alleged that 'harmads' (goons) of CPI-M who had joined BJP had scripted the attack on her at Nandigram, from where she is contesting this time, to stop her from campaigning.
Banerjee, who is among the most strident critics of the prime minister, claimed that the Centre is selling off government concerns and that only Modi's "factory of lies will remain".
She urged people not to vote for "goons from outside" (the state) and often threw the challenge at BJP by uttering her party's popular "khela hobe" (game will take place) slogan.
She charged BJP with bringing in outsiders to the state for the Assembly election in Bengal and attacked the Modi government for the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.
Modi, Mamata spar over insider-outsider debate
Hitting back at the Trinamool Congress’ “insider-outsider” poll plank, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said Bengal brought India together through Vande Mataram and on that land, Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee is talking about “bohiragoto (outsider)”.
He assured the people that “a son of this soil” will be the BJP Chief Minister in Bengal.
"Bengal brought together the people of India through Vande Mataram, and on that land, Mamata-didi is talking about 'bohiragoto' (outsider). No Indian is an outsider here, they are children of Bharat Mata (Mother India)," he said.
Modi's comments came amid an "insider vs outsider" debate with Mamata Banerjee asserting regularly that she won't allow Bengal to be ruled by "outsiders" from Delhi or Gujarat, in a reference to the BJP and the prime minister.
Swapan Dasgupta resigns from RS amid disqualification row
Last week, Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta resigned from the Upper House of the Parliament as Opposition parties raised questions about him contesting in the West Bengal Assembly elections on BJP ticket despite being a nominated MP.
Dasgupta tweeted about the development as well, saying that he had resigned to commit himself “totally to the fight for a better Bengal”.
“I hope to file my nomination as BJP candidate for the Tarakeshwar Assembly seat in the next few days,” he wrote.
This comes after Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Monday pointed out that Dasgupta is a nominated member of the Upper House and said that he must be disqualified for joining the BJP. The BJP has named Dasgupta as a candidate from the Tarakeshwar Assembly constituency in Hooghly district.
Banerjee vs Shah
Throughout the first phase of campaigning, Shah has continued to train his guns at Mamata and Abhishek.
Earlier this week, Shah alleged that "Bhatija (nephew) and company" had swindled Central funds sent for Amphan relief and said that probe will be ordered into it and culprits will be booked after BJP comes to power in West Bengal.
He criticised TMC's "cut money culture" and claimed that the state government had swindled money sent for relief.
Highlighting BJP’s ‘Sonar Bangla’ vision and TMC’s ‘misrule’, Shah attacked Mamata's "desperate attempt" to make her ‘bhaipo’ (nephew Abhishek Banerjee) the next chief minister and urged people to help them in bringing ‘good governance’ in the State.
'Wear Bermuda': Dilip Ghosh's dig at Mamata
In yet another controversy, a video of BJP state president Dilip Ghosh apparently suggesting that the West Bengal Chief Minister should wear Bermuda shorts to display her injured leg has triggered controversy with the ruling TMC slamming it as a "distasteful comment" and women expressing outrage over the remark on social media.
While no one was named in the purported speech by Ghosh, known for his controversial comments in the past, most commentators took the comments to be directed at Banerjee.
In the video, the veracity of which could not be confirmed by PTI or Firstpost, Ghosh was seen stating at an election meeting in Purulia on Monday that after the cast was taken off and the foot was bandaged, she is displaying the leg to everyone.
"....she is wearing saree with one leg covered but kept another kept open for viewing. Haven't seen anyone draping a saree in such a way. If she has to display her leg for viewing, she can very well wear Bermuda shorts. That will help to have a better view," the BJP MP was purportedly heard stating.
Win-win for BJP
Riding on anti-incumbency and identity politics, BJP is looking to capture the ''final frontier" and fulfil its long-cherished dream of coming to power in West Bengal after being on the sidelines of its politics for decades.
Interestingly the party is in a win-win situation even if it loses the state election.
This is because it will then have the chance to be in a better position to improve its tally of Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2024 by being able to avoid anti-incumbency and establish itself as a formidable political force by relegating the traditional Left and the Congress to the sidelines.
The 30 constituencies had overwhelmingly voted for TMC in the last two state elections but BJP had swept them in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
With inputs from PTI
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