With less than six months left for the crucial 2021 Bengal assembly election, the ruling Trinamool Congress is desperately trying to brand its principal rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as an outsider in the state, while trying to boost its own connect with the voters.
“Some people come down just before the elections and go back after making tall claims. But I stay here, not just during Chhath Puja, but during Durga Puja, Christsman and Eid. This is my parampara,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said earlier this week, while adding that people need not be afraid of outsiders.
The BJP has hit back, saying that Banerjee’s statements indicate that she has taken it for granted that West Bengal has turned into West Bangladesh, where people need to produce documents to enter the state.
The TMC has upped its ante against the BJP on this front, more so after the latter sent five of its Central leaders, hailing from other states, to take stock of the party’s preparedness in the state.
“What happened to their district presidents? Why did they need to parachute leaders from outside the state?” questioned veteran TMC leader and minister Partha Chatterjee.
“Have things come to such a low that Bengal and Bengalis will bow down to them? Should Bengalis accept leaders from other states thrust upon them?” said state minister Bratya Basu.
Basu said that outsiders who do not know Rabindranath Tagore are dictating terms to the people of the state. “We had seen how their violence led to the desecration of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s bust (during May 2019 Lok Sabha polls campaign),” Basu said.
The BJP has always denied the charge of desecration of the bust. It rues the fact that the incident by unidentified miscreants cost them quite a few seats, which they could have otherwise won at the final phase of the Lok Sabha election of 2019.
Leaders of BJP’s state unit said that the chief minister was doing more harm to Bengalis by trying to project some people as outsiders. “More than four million Bengalis are working in other states. What if they are tagged as outsiders and asked to return to Bengal? Will Mamata Banerjee be able to provide them jobs? Has she taken for granted that the state of West Bengal has become West Bangladesh? Do we need to produce documents to enter Bengal just the way it was in Kashmir?” Dilip Ghosh, chief of the BJP’s state unit had said.
Meanwhile, in a bid to build its own connect with the people, the state administration has announced a programme, Duare Duare Paschim Banga Sarkar (West Bengal government at every doorstep) to address the grievances of the people. “Party leaders have been asked to increase their connection with the local people living in towns and villages. Every Saturday, leaders will be visiting villages and towns. They would be taking along the local administration. This would not just build local connect but will help address grievances on the spot,” said a senior TMC minister.
Ridiculing the programme, the BJP said TMC leaders should take the local police with them as people were peeved with them.
Buoyed by its impressive gains in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections where the BJP won 40% of the vote share in Bengal and bagged 18 out of the 42 seats in the state, the party is now eyeing the state assembly. “The BJP had sent its Central leaders to the state. They have done their work and have returned while the state unit continues to work on ground. But the TMC is so terrified that they are still talking about the Central leaders,” said Ghosh.
The party is aiming for at least 200 of 294 seats in the House and is putting together its biggest election machinery ever in the state. Top state office-bearers of the BJP said party leaders will be arriving in Bengal from Delhi and other states to work with the local unit for polls. They would be part of a 45-member team to be set up for each constituency, which will the respective district committees will support.