There is still a year to go in the assembly election in West Bengal, but president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah has started preparations for it. The party is going to campaign in West Bengal with the highly ambitious target of “Mission 250”.
To make sure language does not prove an impediment, the BJP president is learning the Bangla language. He has hired a teacher. Shah aims to at least begin understanding the language and start his speeches in public meetings in West Bengal in Bangla, which he hopes will help him connect to the people better.
Before this, RSS man and Maharashtrian Sunil Deodhar, who was given the charge of Tripura election, had learnt Bangla to speak to the community that makes 70% of that state’s population besides the tribal population that is quite comfortable conversing in Bangla.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will continue to raise the slogan “Maa, Maati, Manush”. She has been stressing the Bengali identity in politics of late in public meetings of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), much as her state in general and capital Kolkata in particular are increasingly seeing a heavy influx of Hindi and Urdu-speaking people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
In her meetings, Banerjee refers to the BJP president as an “outsider”. But Shah, a master of electoral strategy who devises a different strategy for every election, would not offer her a free run.
After the modest results for the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections and the party’s defeat in Jharkhand, Shah wants to commandeer electioneering in Bengal rather than leaving it to the local politicians. This requires dialogue and coordination with the workers. So language should not come in the way of this strategy, a source said.
According to a top politician in the West Bengal unit of the BJP, there is nothing new in this. The leader said that the BJP president was learning four languages spoken in different regions of the country including Bangla and Tamil.
In fact, Shah hardly spoke any language other than Gujarati while his business and then politics was confined to his home state. He got a grip on Hindi during his stay in jail and when a court imposed a two-year ban on his entry in Gujarat.
Shah toured across the country before becoming BJP president. He visited major pilgrimage centres in this duration. This enabled him to understand the political, social and religious aspects of all parts of the country.
The result of this exploration by Shah was seen in the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh and states in the Northeast. Very few know that besides being multilingual, Shah has studied classical music. He listens to classical music and does yogic exercises for relaxation regularly.
In West Bengal, with 294 assembly seats, the BJP has set a target of “Mission 250”. In the Lok Sabha election, BJP won 18 out of the total 42 seats in the state while the TMC won 22 seats. The results could have been even better, political observers note if the state did not witness large-scale rigging and the desecration of a statue of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar for which the TMC blamed BJP workers rightly or wrongly.