Former BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah read out his party’s manifesto for the assembly election of West Bengal today, emphasising the Hindutva agenda that saliently involves rejuvenating the legacy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Rishi Aurobindo, financially supporting Hindu priests and turning the Gangasagar Mela into a gala event. In equal measure, the stress was on promoting the rich cultural and literary heritage of Bengal carried by names like Rabindranath Tagore and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. The other issue that makes the BJP manifesto stand out was a booster for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe for a state where the upper castes would like to believe they are not casteist.
Taunting the ruling All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) for obstructing festivities like Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja, Shah, in yet another promotion of Hindutva, said that this harassment of Hindus would stop if the BJP were to come to power after this state election.
The Hindutva push
- Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Spiritual Institute to be launched to spread the message of the famous Krishna devotee and saint
- A monthly pension of Rs 3,000 for the elderly (above 60 years of age) kirtaniyas (kirtan singers)
- a Purohit Kalyan Board that will give a monthly stipend of Rs 3,000 to priests of temples
- Rs 2,500 crore worth of fund to promote the Gangasagar Mela globally
- Rs 100 crore for renovation of dilapidated temples
Dealing with the issue of demographic change with an ever-increasing pro-Muslim skew in the local population, Shah said, “We have decided that no infiltrators to be allowed in Bengal and border fencing will be strengthened.” Bangladeshis’ unethically legitimised presence in the state has been troubling Hindus, especially Hindutva thinkers, since the years of communist rule.
Catering to Bengali pride besides Hindutva
While Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is respected across the country, celebrations on 23 January, the birth anniversary of the freedom fighter, will be boosted further, Shah mentioned in the West Bengal election manifesto of the BJP.
The BJP has tried to uphold the heritage of Bengal by promising a Tagore Award fashioned like the Nobel Prize and a Satyajit Ray Award inspired by the Academy Award (Oscars).
The party promised to build an Uttam Kumar Film City in Sonarpur, a suburb near Kolkata that has developed to take the shape of a bustling township in the past two decades.
There will also be a Gurudev Centre for Cultural Excellence, Shah said, which will have branches in Kolkata and capitals of some foreign countries.
The party promised to endeavour to turn Bengal into the cultural capital of the country. It promised funds worth Rs 11,000 crore for the purpose.
Noteworthy among the election promises Shah read out is the promise to build a Sonar Bangla Museum.
Shah said that few know that a terribly high rate of corrupt practices mar the process of acquiring lower caste certificates in West Bengal and promised to end the corruption so that the intended benefits reach the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
“The core idea of this manifesto is building a Sonar Bangla. For centuries, Bengal led the country on several fronts: spiritually, science, politics, social reforms, education or art. Bengal used to be ahead in every sector,” Shah said.
The home minister said that the BJP had decided to call their manifesto a ‘Sankalp Patra’ “because it is not just a manifesto but a resolution letter for West Bengal by the country’s largest party”.
Shah further said that the BJP’s manifesto emphasised women’s safety, development of infrastructure, providing better healthcare services and setting up industries in the state. “We have decided to provide free education to women from KG to PG,” he added. “We will establish a Sonar Bangla fund worth Rs 11,000 crore which will promote art, literature and other such sectors,” Shah said.
Slamming the AITC government, Shah said, “At one time, 30% of India’s industrial production came from Bengal. Today, it has fallen to 3.5%. 73 years of ill-governance is the reason for this.”
Alleging that Bengal had “turned into one of the most unsafe states for women”, Shah said, “Inaction for years has broken dreams of the youth and has stopped the flow of employment. In the last 10 years, Trinamool Congress’s ill-governance has started a dark chapter in Bengal’s history.”
“We will constitute an SIT to investigate cases of political killings & take strict action against those responsible. We’ll provide up to Rs 25 lakhs as a rehabilitation package to each of the victims of political violence in West Bengal,” said, revealing the BJP’s agenda for one of the most politically violent states in the country since the late-1960s.
The BJP leader who has spent several recent years developing a constituency for the party in the state said that in the last 10 years, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has delivered only on three fronts: the politicisation of administration, criminalisation of politics and institutionalisation of corruption.
Shah said that the BJP has decided that no infiltrators will be allowed in Bengal and border fencing will be strengthened.
Shah said in the manifesto, the BJP promises to provide every fisherman Rs 6,000 annually “just like our farmers”. The party has also assured to work on skill development of gold craftsmen.
The manifesto talks about implementation of the Ayushman Bharat scheme in Bengal. It promises three new AIIMS to be built in remote areas.
There is also a promise of one job per family, implementation of 7th pay commission for state government employees and PM-Kisan arrear of Rs 18,000 for 75 lakh farmers.
“Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be implemented in the first Cabinet and refugees who have been staying here for 70 years will be given citizenship. Each refugee family will get ₹10,000 per year for 5 years,” Shah said.
West Bengal is set to witness a high-octane battle between the BJP and the rulling TMC for the upcoming Assembly polls.
Elections to the 294-member state Assembly will be held in eight-phases starting from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on 29 April. The counting of votes will take place on 2 May. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Bankura today, “On 2 May, Didi jachchhe (Mamata Banerjee will be out)!”