BJP banks on Amit Shah to give impetus to Bengal campaign

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New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is banking on Union home minister Amit Shah’s virtual rally in West Bengal on Tuesday to galvanise its cadre and give impetus to the main opposition party’s campaign in the eastern state for the assembly polls slated to be held in May next year.

Shah’s rally, which will be digitally broadcast via social media platforms, is expected to serve the twin purpose of highlighting the Centre’s “achievements” and flag the “failures” of Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s “misrule” amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, said BJP functionaries.

“There’s a lot of anger and disappointment among the people in Bengal. People can see the weak response of the state government, whether it was Covid-19 management, or the relief work after the cyclone Amphan. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has failed the public, as compared to the Centre’s timely actions,” said Saumitra Khan, a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Bishnupur constituency in Bankura district, and the newly appointed chief of the BJP’s youth wing.

“The rally will give an opportunity for the Union home minister to explain to the public how the BJP will help West Bengal become self-reliant and how it can overcome the problems created by the TMC government,” he added.

Shah’s digitised rally aims to reach out to 50 lakh people in the state and also seeks to send out a message that the former BJP chief will continue to play a decisive role in the next year’s assembly polls, seen as one of the final frontiers for the saffron party to conquer.

“Shah was instrumental in shaping the BJP’s campaign in the state ahead of the 2019 general elections and the party won 18 seats of the 42 seats. Now, when a new team is in place and the workers are being targeted by the TMC government to the extent that they’ve not even been allowed to carry out relief work during the pandemic, Shah’s involvement will act as a motivator,” said a party functionary.

A second functionary said Shah has focused on the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha, as he sees potential for the BJP’s growth in the region. On Monday, Shah addressed a virtual rally in Odisha.

“Even chief minister Mamata Banerjee has focused more on targeting Shah. She realises that targeting Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is counterproductive, which explains her attacks have been largely against Shah,” said the second functionary.

Earlier in March, the state government had refused to give permission for Shah’s rally in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, citing law and order concerns.

Banerjee and Shah have been engaged in a war of words over several issues, including the response to the pandemic and the migrant workers’ plight during the nationwide lockdown restrictions, which were enforced on March 25 to contain the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Banerjee was upset at the Modi government’s decision to send two central teams to Bengal to do a “reality check” on the Covid-19 outbreak and for being kept in the dark about ferrying stranded migrant workers to the state by Shramik Special trains from across the country amid the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Kumar Rana, a Bengal-based political commentator, said political parties should focus on handling the crisis of poverty and hunger, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and cyclone Amphan.

“It’s unfortunate that they are focusing on electoral politics instead of dealing with the growing Covid-19 positive cases. Their priority should be to tackle the problems caused by the pandemic,” he said.

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