BJP’s Bengal Game Plan: Morning Walkabouts, Modi’s Address On ‘Shoshthi’

New Delhi:  During his maiden visit after becoming the BJYM head, Tejasvi Surya took Kolkata by storm. From leading one of the four marches to gherao Nabanna, the state Secretariat, getting into a face-off with police, staging overnight dharna at the Jorasanko police station to demand an FIR, the young BJP MP upped the ante like never before in Bengal’s polity that saw senior leadership like Kailash Vijayvargiya, Arvind Menon, Mukul Roy, and Dilip Ghosh putting in their might to unsettle the Mamata Banerjee administration, and even get arrested.

However, ‘Nabanno Chalo’ is just a teaser for the BJP in Bengal. It has bigger plans in the weeks and months to come, which includes a possible virtual address by the Prime Minister on ‘Shoshthi’ or the 6th day of the Durga Puja.

“There is no democracy in West Bengal. When Amit Shah was the BJP President, his helicopter was not allowed to land. In the last general elections, the PM’s meeting venue was changed. So much so, hurdles were put in the movement of RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on the evening after a day-long BJP-Kolkata police face-off.

The pointed allegation he made against the Bengal government was that it’s “fascist” and that “political murders” is a norm in the state. But a senior Bengal BJP office- bearer said that they are aware that this pitch alone is not enough to dislodge Banerjee in the 2021 Assembly polls.

So, the BJP has started to reach out to the residents of Kolkata through morning walks.

In the 2019 general elections, the only phase where the BJP did not get a single seat was the last phase when Kolkata went to poll. Hence, the BJP has decided that while its main theme will continue to be ‘lawless Bengal’, it is important for a more interpersonal two-way communication when it comes to winning the trust of the vote bank that remains with Banerjee.

More top leaders will be asked to catch up with Kolkata residents during the morning walks in the months to come, wherein the party leader will walk about in parks which affluent, aspirational joggers frequent and talk ‘future of Bengal’.

Already, BJP Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh has held dozens of such walks across the length and breadth of Kolkata. Soon, more party leaders may join in. Every walk will end with a short chat over tea, while sitting in a corner of the park, when the leader will pitch in what the BJP has to offer, apart from the hardcore Hindutva politics that it is known for. The tea sessions will be called “cha-chakra”.

The BJP has also decided to mount a social media offensive, wherein photos or videos with potential to go viral and substantiate BJP’s ‘lawless Bengal’ pitch will be used through Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp groups.

A recent video of brutal assault on an elderly BJP cadre by police personnel during ‘Nabanno Chalo’ or another video where the turban of Balwinder Singh, a private security guard of BJP leader Priyanshu Pandey, came off. The latter incident created a massive nationwide outrage with Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and former cricketer Harbhajan Singh raising the issue. These examples were cited that the Bengal BJP will use with more assertiveness in future, says a source.

BJP’s Bengal-focussed advertisements were highest spender on Facebook in India last month. Sources say the party cadres are being encouraged to shoot more instances of what it considers to be ‘police brutality’ in future. “All cadres carry a smartphone these days. That should not be a problem,” said a Bengal BJP functionary who in the past has driven the party’s social media campaigns in the state.

The BJP activities come in the wake of another BJP worker Manish Shukla’s murder.

BJP chief JP Nadda, after the BJP’s agitation and police action, called the Mamata Banerjee government “tyrannical and bloodied misrule”.

Surya, who shared a video to claim he was manhandled by officials in Jorasanko police station and threatened to bring a privilege motion on this count in Parliament, has asked police officials to “shed their uniform and join the TMC”.

Dilip Ghosh has alleged that Bengal’s police force is “acting like TMC cadres”. The goal remains to discredit the police force and underline a theory of deteriorating law and order. “As many as 115 BJP cadres have been victims of police violence there,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Now, with the tempo set by Surya’s whirlwind tour, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is all set to tour West Bengal just ahead of Durga Puja, when he is expected to chair strategy meetings attended by top party leadership there.

Shah’s tour is slated to be for 2 days. However, it is unclear so far whether he will address public rallies or not.

IANS has learnt that West Bengal BJP is trying hard to rope in Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well. “This will enthuse the cadres and send the right signals,” said a top state BJP leader while adding that they are awaiting a formal confirmation.

Given the PM’s watertight schedule and COVID precautions in place, the Bengal BJP is trying for a virtual address by Modi to the voters of West Bengal, which is likely to be on ‘Shoshthi’.

Though the poll battle may be on in Bihar, the BJP has its eyes set on Bengal. “Dekhte thakun (keep watching what’s in store),” said a BJP lawmaker from Bengal and a close aide of Mukul Roy, with a smirk.



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