Why BJP is desperate for Bengal

Ahead of Durga Puja, party president Amit Shah is on a three-day visit to the state again.

 |  4-minute read |   13-09-2017
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Durga Puja, celebrated with great fervour in West Bengal, is around the corner and just ahead of that BJP president Amit Shah is on a three-day visit to the state.

However, this is not Shah’s first visit to West Bengal. He had earlier gone there five months ago when he had lunch at the house of a tribal family at Dakkhin Katiajote village in Naxalbari.

The obvious question that comes to mind is why is the BJP president visiting Bengal so frequently? What is the political strategy behind these visits?

Political analysts closely watching the developments believe that the BJP is aiming for at least 10 seats from West Bengal in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. At present, there are only two BJP MPs from the state.

Eastern states

After the BJP’s massive victory in Uttar Pradesh, and formation of government in Manipur, the party is now in power (on its own and with allies) in 18 states. It is with this vision of expanding BJP's base to the eastern states that Shah is working tirelessly.

From the end of the this year to 2018, just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Assembly elections will be held in BJP-ruled states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The party knows it very well that the anti-incumbency factor might weigh heavily against it and bring down the seat tally in these states that would in turn have its bearing on the 2019 General Elections. Under such circumstances, Bengal is the only state where the BJP can hope to compensate for the loss it might suffer in these states. 

amit_091317074006.jpgImage credit: Twitter/BJP4India

A politically fertile Bengal

Mamata Banerjee’s TMC may have broken the Left’s 35 years of stronghold, but in the last few years, the BJP has made a strong presence in the state, because the Left has not been able to stand up as a formidable opposition to the TMC.

There are 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state and Bengal can come to BJP’s rescue for any loss it suffers in other states in the coming Assembly elections. The party feels that the people of Bengal are disenchanted with TMC and are now see the saffron party as a viable alternative. 

Lotus taking roots 

1) In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP not only won two politically important constituencies of Darjeeling and Asansol, but on three seats - Kolkata South, Kolkata North and Malda South, it finished runner-up. That was BJP's most impressive performance in Bengal till now with a 17 per cent vote.

2) For the first time, the BJP opened its account by winning three seats in the 2016 Assembly elections. The party secured 11 per cent  vote.

3) In the civic body elections held in August, the BJP came second in most of the wards, replacing the Left. The Congress was seen standing at fourth place.

Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement politics

The saffron party is trying to turn the tide in its favour by highlighting Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement policy towards Muslims. Banerjee had recently ordered that there would be no immersion of Durga idols on Dashami (September 30) due to Muharram processions. Many, including the Calcutta High Court found it a “clear endeavour” by the state to “appease the minority section of the public”. Banerjee has also been severely criticised for her "minority appeasing" policies in the past.

Apart from this, the issue of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants have become a potential political weapon to polarise the voters of the state.

The BJP is leaving no stones unturned in targeting Mamata Banerjee and in sending the message to the people of West Bengal. The party will go all out to highlight its nationalist policy and is set to gain significantly from that.

Muslim-dominated seats 

Muslims have stronghold in 65 seats in Bengal

1) In 2016 Assembly elections, TMC won 38 seats in Muslim-dominated areas with 41 per cent votes

2) In 2011, while the BJP could not win even a single seat in Muslim-dominated areas, it registerd a mere 4.6 per cent votes.

3) The BJP improved its performance in Muslim-majority pockets in 2016 Assembly elections, winning one seat and also increasing its votes to 9.6 per cent.

Clearly, Banerjee, who had captured the throne by devastating the Left, is now facing a huge challenge from the BJP. The saffron party got a shot in its arm when it was able to befriend JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar again.

For the moment, Shah is concentrating hard to make the lotus bloom all over Bengal. Only time will tell whether it will win or wilt.

Also read: Why BJP's rise in Bengal has rocked Mamata's boat


Praveen Shekhar Praveen Shekhar

The writer is Associate Producer, TVTN.

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