How BJP is raising poll heat in TMC strongholds ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections

The Panchayat verdict has been an eye-opener for Mamata Banerjee.

 |  4-minute read |   12-07-2018
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It’s just been a fortnight and Bengal has become a must stop for two BJP stalwarts — Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is eyeing 22 seats, out of which they are right now focussed on three seats from the tribal districts of Jhargram, Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura. These areas have given the party unexpected success in the Panchayat polls.

modi_071218113704.jpgNarendra Modi will address a rally in West Midnapore on July 16

A neck-and-neck fight in Purulia and Jhargram, despite allegations of electoral malpractices, threat and intimidation by the ruling party, has convinced the BJP leaders that political winds are shifting in the tribal belt. Grievances are growing and now is the time to reap the dividends.

Modi has chosen the tribal-dominated district of West Midnapore as the venue for kicking off his campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Bengal. This would also be the place to roll his pro-farmer campaign, the increase in MSP on rice and over a dozen agricultural produce.

On June 28, when Amit Shah was in Purulia, he addressed the rally in the capacity of the party national president, attacking the Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee’s governance. Modi is purely going to raise his decibels in favour of the central schemes his government has initiated and ask if the benefits had reached them or not.

Once informed that the tribal community is dissatisfied with the irregularity of state doles, delayed payment and above all, politicisation of distribution of benefits, the Prime Minister is going to uphold the transparent dealings of the central schemes where credits are directly linked to the beneficiary’s bank accounts.

There will be more arrows in his quiver.

amit-shah_071218113716.jpgEbar BanglaMany political heavyweights will campaign in Bengal this time

The BJP has lined up a series of heavyweight leaders to campaign in Bengal. Modi himself will tour some of the districts where the party expects to be lucky.

After all, the slogan of this election is Ebar Bangla (now Bengal).

The ruling Trinamool Congress is a bit worried as it is likely to face a tough opposition in BJP, now that the Left and Congress have become non-players in Bengal and the anti-incumbency votes are unlikely to be divided, at least in these tribal areas where the masses are not known to try out many parties.

If there is a player/contestant from the tribal party or if the tribals pitch independent candidates, the contest is always two-pronged: between the incumbent or power-in-place and the tribals. But if the tribals feel they are inadequate in strength, they usually back the Opposition, which has the maximum chance of fulfilling their aspirations.

Right now, the BJP appears to be the only alternative close at hand and given RSS’s penetration in the tribal villages, even the ruling Trinamool Congress is in a difficult spot. The ruling party, however, is not sitting idle. It is mobilising all its strength to repair the weaknesses before going to the polls.

The Panchayat verdict has been an eye-opener and the chief minister, who usually prefers being oblivious to the faults and frailties of her party, has for once, realised that wisdom lies in acknowledging the problems and looking for a solution.

mamata_071218113730.jpgTMC is not sitting idle 

The first thing she did was to remove the people’s representatives, who were functioning as ministers and MLAs, and had grown too big for their boots. The locals were dissatisfied with them. Power had made them inaccessible and ostensibly rich.

While the humble abodes of people’s representatives became palaces and cycles were given up for SUVs, the tribal community was toiling to get four square meals. Even access to the subsidised ration, the wages of NREGA and other social welfare benefits depended on how close the tribals were to the political dadas.

Realising that there is hardly any time before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee convened an emergency meeting with the tribals at the state headquarters last week.

rita_071218113742.jpgWill Ritabrata be able to become the eyes, ears and voice of the tribals?

The tribals were driven in the city in AC volvo buses, were looked after well and made to pour out their hearts, especially their angst, disillusionment and grievances.

Incidentally, the former tribal welfare affairs minister lost his portfolio after the BJP won 42 per cent seats in Jhargram and 33 per cent seats in Purulia.

Mamata formed a committee comprising all the tribal heads at the grassroots level. There was no people’s representative, except for Ritabrata Banerjee, who has been appointed the convener of the committee. Ritabrata has been expelled from the CPM for his allegedly wayward and un-communist ways and lavish lifestyle.

How Ritabrata is going to fit into the scheme of things by being the eyes, ear and voice of the tribals is now a big question.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Ma, Mati, Manush and murder? Why isn't Mamata Banerjee taking a firm stand on Bengal violence?


Romita Datta Romita Datta

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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