Kolkata: Union Home Minister Amit Shah is slated to visit West Bengal on 17 April, in his first trip to the state since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) debacle in the state Assembly election last year.
While he is scheduled to participate in government programmes, the state BJP unit is hoping that his visit will infuse some fresh morale into the state cadre, which is still reeling from the violence that followed the 2021 election, and from losses in the civic polls held earlier this year.
The state BJP unit said that Shah would meet all elected party MLAs, followed by a meeting with senior leaders and core committee members in Kolkata.
West Bengal BJP chief and Lok Sabha MP Sukanta Majumdar told ThePrint: “We still haven’t received an official confirmation from the ministry. But since he has government programmes to attend, we are requesting him to hold some party meetings. It will be a big boost for the unit. He will meet all MLAs and MPs.”
Shah is expected to kickstart his itinerary by inspecting the Tin Bhiga corridor in Cooch Behar district — a strip of Indian land leased to Bangladesh to connect the country with its only remaining enclave in India, Dahagram-Angarpota — and is also likely to flag off the Mitali Express between West Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri station and Dhaka in Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is yet to release an official schedule of Shah’s West Bengal tour.
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The BJP in Bengal is struggling on various fronts since it was defeated in the state Assembly polls a year ago, as well as this year’s civic polls, and is hard put to keep its flock together.
Since the state elections, at least five sitting MLAs have left the party, while Union Minister Babul Supriyo too quit the BJP to join the ruling TMC.
“We are not a contender in West Bengal anymore,” BJP leader Chandra Kumar Bose told ThePrint. “The 2019 Lok Sabha polls (in which the BJP got a 40 per cent vote-share in Bengal) was a bubble we were in. We have to retain that, and for that we need a Bengal-specific strategy from the top leadership,” he added.
According to Bose, “the BJP has failed to formulate a Bengal strategy within the framework of the party’s national vision. The fine-tuning is missing and clearly the BJP’s polarisation has failed in Bengal. The party needs to unite now on issues such as health, infrastructure, investments, and education”.
After the state elections, among the BJP brass, only party president J.P. Nadda has visited Bengal once to take stock of the post-poll violence.
This time, Shah is expected to hand-hold the state leaders on strategising to put the TMC on the back foot.
Just last week, Majumdar and the BJP’s chief whip in the state assembly, Manoj Tigga, met Shah in New Delhi and handed him a memorandum on the violence in Birbhum district on 21 March, sparked by the murder of a local TMC leader, which claimed nine lives. The case is now being investigated by the CBI.
The other problem plaguing the state unit is infighting. Bengal organisation in-charge Amitava Chakravorty is facing stiff opposition from Union minister Shantanu Thakur and others in the state unit. One of the BJP’s leaders suspended for “anti-party activities”, Joy Prakash Majumdar, joined the TMC last month.
The state BJP has already begun preparations for Shah’s visit and is hoping that his presence will enthuse the cadres ahead of the panchayat polls next year.
Shah will also arrive in West Bengal the day after results are announced for the upcoming by-elections to the Asansol Lok Sabha seat and the Ballygunge assembly constituency, which will go to the polls next week.
While the TMC has never won the Asansol seat since its formation, former BJP heavyweight Babul Supriyo — the erstwhile Asansol MP until he resigned his seat last year — will fight as the TMC’s candidate in Ballygunge.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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Source: The Print