Kolkata: The crowd at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally at historical Brigade Parade ground on Sunday last must have warmed the cockles of the BJP's heart as its strength matched that of public rallies held by former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, or even the incumbent, Mamata Banerjee.
BJP’s national general secretary and central observer of Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya said, “This gathering proves BJP is coming to power and Didi is going out of power."This is unprecedented for a state that has for long steered clear of the ideology that forms the core of the saffron front.
BJP's political graph in West Bengal has seen a significant rise since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but the 2021 polls in the state are not going to be an easy task as Mamata Banerjee-led TMC has a record of improving its performance in the Assembly elections vis-à-vis the general elections.
BJP is optimistic about 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections solely on basis of its 2019 Lok Sabha poll performance where it won 18 of the 42 seats and bagged 40.64% of the votes. This comes close to the TMC tally of 22 seats and 43.69%votes but the saffron party was still four seats and 3% votes behind.
Unlike the erstwhile ruling Left Front or present TMC government, the BJP is a rank outsider in Bengal and is also considered a 'North Indian party'. The strength of the gathering at Brigade Parade Ground for Modi's rally definitely begs a question.
The party's biggest weapon is Mamata's appeasement policy. This apparently earned her undivided support from Bengal's Muslim community, which constitutes 30 percent of the population. Her blatant attempts to appease minority communities with freebies, such as scholarships and stipends, clubbed with the deteriorating law and order situation in the state forced the largely secular urban Bengali voter to reconsider their unstinted support to the TMC.
Furthermore, Bengal has become a fertile ground for overt Hindutva groups to take root in its soil because of the unchecked cross-border infiltration that has occurred over the decades. Over the years, illegal migration of people from Bangladesh has disturbed the homogeneity of the population in border districts, causing a demographic imbalance and giving rise to social problems.
"The people of Bengal are visibly angry over this appeasement policy. The Left Front government had initiated it, and now, the TMC has taken it to another level. Towns and villages in the border districts of West Bengal, which have a large Muslim population, are facing the heat of this policy," said a Kolkata-based functionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Besides, the BJP always had the support of a pocket of the trader community, but now, there is growing support from a new middle-class Bengali. It seems that the BJP president Amit Shah's tagline "Ebar Bangla" (this time, Bengal) has slowly, but steadily, gained ground. RSS workers have backed his campaign at the grassroots.
In spite of the star power on Brigade Parade ground stage, people had come primarily to catch a glimpse of Mr Modi. An added highlight was veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty who ended all speculation and formally joined the BJP shortly before Modi’s arrival at the ground.
After joining BJP on Sunday, Mithun said, “I am proud to be a Bengali. My dream came true today as I will be sharing the stage with the prime minister of the world’s biggest democracy.”
Former TMC leader who recently joined BJP, Suvendu Adhikari, while addressing the gathering said, “India is emerging as a powerful nation. All states barring Bengal is growing rapidly. We need a double engine government for the development of Bengal.”
Attacking the West Bengal chief minister, whose campaign has the legend ‘Bengal wants its own daughter’, Mr Adhikari said, “No one accepts you as Bengal’s daughter here.”(UNI)