Union Home Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart Amit Shah on a two-day trip to Bengal conducted rallies and road shows in the southern region which is considered as the stronghold of Trinamool Congress on February 18 and 19.
He took part in the Poriborton Yatra, had lunch at a migrant family’s home and paid tributes to martyrs from the state at the national library in Kolkata. He also oversaw preparations for the prime minister’s visit to Kolkata.
Incidentally, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was also touring the same region as Amit Shah and it led to a sort of a clash of the titans.
Whenever Amit Shah is in Bengal, there is some news about the exodus of leaders from Trinamool Congress. Two MPs and three MLAs skipped the party meeting called by Mamata recently, even as Tollywood actors are making a beeline for the BJP.
Taking on Mamata Banerjee in his unique style, Shah thundered that the BJP will end the ‘cut money culture’ in Bengal and bring development to the state if voted to power.
He promised to make Bengal free from syndicate Raj and implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations in a bid to woo state government employees.
Taunting Mamata, he said that the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan is against appeasement politics of Mamata in a bid to polarise the voters from the majority community.
His speech in Namkhana in South Parganas was interrupted by women showing black flags. Shah accused Mamata of sending them and using women as a shield to disturb his rally, adding he will not be perturbed by such tactics.
Raising the pitch, the Home Minister highlighted the violence and murder of 130 BJP workers in the state. Reassuring these workers’ families, Shah promised that those behind the murders will be punished even if they hide beneath the earth.
In what has become a regular feature in the poll campaign in Bengal, Shah and Mamata exchanged barbs over nephew and son.
Shah accused Mamata of ignoring the interest of the people and only thinking of bhatija-kalyan.
Didi hit back in her imitable style challenging Shah to first contest against Abhishek and then her, in an attempt to belittle Amit Shah’s clout in Bengal.
She again targeted Jay Shah questioning his qualifications to become BCCI administrator and how he amassed crores of rupees.
Going a step further, Abhishek has filed a defamation case against Amit Shah and a court has asked the home minister to be either present personally or through a lawyer on February 22.
The Trinamool Congress, meanwhile, has intensified the ‘insider versus outsider’ campaign in a bid to paint the BJP as alien to the rich culture and heritage of Bengal. The lack of strong local leadership and poaching of TMC ministers and MLAs gives credence to this theory.
Despite the fact that Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of BJP’s parent party — the Jan Sangh — belonged to Bengal, the BJP has not been able to shrug off the outsider label. This is posing a stiff challenge to BJP’s bid to dethrone Mamata.
To counter this, the BJP is working on a 3-tier strategy to dislodge Mamata. The party has used similar tactics against the Congress at the national level.
The three pillars are corruption, dynasty and minority appeasement politics.
The BJP is targeting the ‘cut money culture’ prevalent in Bengal and the terror of the syndicate. People of the state are fed up with the corruption under Mamata regime where files do not move without greasing the palms of officials.
While Mamata is perceived as an honest/upright politician, the TMC and the government do not have the same image.
Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s control of the party organisation has provided ammunition to the BJP to paint the TMC as a dynastic party like most regional parties.
This has led many ambitious leaders who see no future in the party to jump ship and hop on to the BJP bandwagon. Organisationally, the party is getting weaker day by day due to the exodus of leaders, supporters and cadre.
Further, the youth across the country have developed an antipathy towards dynastic politics. Mamata in a way rebelled against Sonia Gandhi forming her own party, but is now adopting the same technique of pushing relatives for top positions of power.
The third and the most important facet of the BJP’s campaign has been that it has, to some extent, managed to create a perception that the TMC is pro-minority and anti-majority. Mamata’s objection to ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans have helped the BJP unite the Hindu voters, especially in rural areas against the TMC.
With the BJP now firmly displacing Left as the main challenger to the TMC, it has started appropriating some of the symbols and slogans of the Communists in its campaign.
It now claims to champion the cause of the poor, landless and marginal farmers and accuses Mamata of snatching the rights of farmers of the state by denying them the PM Kisan Nidhi scheme benefits.
Amit Shah and BJP are making efforts to claim the legacy of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, accusing the Congress of erasing the contributions made by him for India’s Independence. Netaji’s bravery and valour will be remembered for ages and the youth should take inspiration from his life.
The BJP clearly sees the outsider label as a big challenge and has formulated a comprehensive strategy to tackle the same and win the state elections.