In battleground Bengal, Modi & Shah’s rallies to counter Mamata’s mega Opposition show

In battleground Bengal, Modi & Shah's rallies to counter Mamata's mega Opposition show
In battleground Bengal, Modi & Shah's rallies to counter Mamata's mega Opposition show

The BJP will kick-start its election campaign in West Bengal with a series of rallies beginning with a public meeting by party chief Amit Shah on January 20, a day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s mega show featuring prominent Opposition leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also likely to attend a rally at the Brigade Parade Ground here on February 8, state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Dilip Ghosh said.

The announcement comes a day after the Supreme Court had put the BJP’s proposed “rath yatras” on hold, but allowed the saffron party to hold public meetings.

“We will start organising our month-long public rallies from January 20. Amit Shah will address the first rally on January 20 in Malda,” Ghosh said.

On January 21, Shah will address two rallies in Suri in Birbhum district and Jhargram. The next day, he will address rallies at Krishnanagar in Nadia district and Jaynagar in South 24 Parganas district. The rallies in various parts of the state will continue till first week of February, the BJP leader said.

Ghosh said nothing had been finalised as of now regarding Modi’s rallies. “We have sent the schedule to the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) and waiting for the clearance. We are hopeful that the PM will attend the rally on February 8. We also have plans to bring Prime Minister Modi for few public rallies during our month-long programme,” Ghosh said.

In a show of strength ahead of the general election, Banerjee will organise a massive rally here on Saturday, which will likely see the participation of lakhs of her supporters. Leaders of all major Opposition parties have been invited to the rally to be held at the Brigade Parade Ground at the heart of the city.

Meanwhile, the BJP state leadership has decided to seek permission for a new ‘rath yatra’ schedule from the state government, a senior party leader said Wednesday.

“We have decided to submit the new 10-12 days long four-phased ‘rath yatra’ schedule to the state government. Let’s see whether the state (government) gives us permission or not,” state BJP vice-president Jai Prakash Majumdar said.

The four chariots will start from four venues — Cooch Behar, Kakdwip (South 24 Parganas), Krishnanagar (Nadia) and Birbhum district.

The BJP leadership, however, declined to give out the exact dates which they are planning to submit to the state government.

“Initially our proposal was for a 40-day-long yatra. The state declined to give us permission. Then, (when) we submitted a 20-day-long schedule, we were declined permission. So, now, we will submit a 10-12-day-long yatra,” another senior BJP leader said.

The BJP will submit fresh itinerary of the ‘rath yatras’ in accordance with the directives of the Supreme Court.

The Trinamool Congress said the BJP’s effort to communalise the atmosphere of Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls would flat as the people would reject them outright. “Their efforts to communalise the atmosphere of the state and divide masses across religious lines will not succeed,” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.

The BJP has identified West Bengal as a priority state for the upcoming parliamentary elections ,with Shah setting a target of 22 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.

Over the last few years, the party has emerged as the main Opposition in the state, with a significant show in the rural polls and by-elections.

The BJP had planned ‘rath yatras’ touching all Lok Sabha constituencies in the state to boost its chances in the national elections. However, it was denied permission by the state government and has since been caught in legal tangles.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court put the programme on hold saying the state government’s law-and-order apprehensions over the event was not “totally unfounded” and asked the BJP to submit a fresh request and seek necessary approvals. PTI