New Delhi: October is usually the month of Durga Puja festivities in West Bengal and for the Bengali diaspora around the world, but this time around, there will be a distinct political flavour too, thanks to the BJP.
In its bid to unseat the Trinamool Congress and its chief Mamata Banerjee from power after 10 years in next year’s assembly elections, the BJP plans to give its woman workers self-defence training through its Mahila Morcha; get its Yuva Morcha (youth wing) to surround the state secretariat; conduct a block-level agitation on the “mismanagement” of Cyclone Amphan amid the Covid-19 pandemic; and fly in Union Home Minister Amit Shah to visit the state during Durga Puja.
Shah readily agreed to the visit at a Thursday meeting, sources in the BJP told ThePrint.
Self-defence training ‘Uma’
The BJP has decided to raise the issue of rising cases of violence in West Bengal, especially clashes between its workers and those of the Trinamool Congress, in which several BJP workers have been killed.
To highlight the issue, the BJP’s Mahila Morcha will provide self-defence training, titled ‘Uma’, to women workers in 23 districts. Other women will also be taught self-defence “to protect themselves from attack or molestation”, BJP leaders said.
This programme has started with 50 women on Gandhi Jayanti, 2 October.
“Training is necessary due to the upcoming elections, when we are anticipating large-scale violence. Women constitute a large chunk of voters, and they need to be made confident against TMC goons. Our trained workers will train others at the village level to fight TMC workers, and also give them confidence for political campaigning,” said BJP’s Mahila Morcha chief for West Bengal, Agnimitra Paul.
To illustrate why women need safety training, Paul highlighted an incident last month when a taxi driver made lewd comments at Trinamool MP and actor Mimi Chakraborty.
However, party sources said, through this programme, the BJP wants to gain the confidence of women voters, who have been one of Mamata Banerjee’s biggest strengths.
On 8 October, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha plans to gherao the West Bengal secretariat ‘Nabanna’ with more than one lakh youth on the issue of unemployment.
BJYM Bengal president and Lok Sabha MP Saumitra Khan told ThePrint that Mamata Banerjee’s government has failed to provide employment opportunities to the youth of the state, and there is rampant corruption in college admissions.
“There are no private sector jobs, except in Kolkata, and the state government hasn’t recruited young people in government jobs,” Khan said.
A senior BJP leader said this agitation will help win the vote of the aspirational segment of the electorate. “In a few days, more young leaders like (Minister of State for Finance) Anurag Thakur and (new BJYM national president) Tejasvi Surya will be deputed to appeal to the youth,” the leader said, adding that the party’s own target for the Nabanna demonstration is two lakh youth, but even if 50,000 turn up, there would be a huge impact.
Block-level agitation on Amphan
On 5 October, the BJP plans to hold demonstrations at 33 block development offices across the state on the “mismanagement” of Cyclone Amphan, which struck the state in May amid the lockdown.
The BJP had demanded that the state government display the list of beneficiaries of Amphan relief at BDOs, a demand that had been refused. The BJP has alleged that Mamata Banerjee misused central funds, and people affected by the cyclone didn’t get the relief. It had also launched a website to register protest against the “mismanagement”.
Marches with farmers
The BJP also plans to start massive farmer protection marches or ‘Krishak Suraksha Pad-yatra’ in every assembly constituency, where all its Bengal MPs and leaders have been asked to march with farmers and convince them about the benefits of the three contentious farm laws passed by the government last month.
Before the marches, the leaders have been asked to have meetings with villagers over tea to talk about Mamata Banerjee’s mismanagement.
“Mamata is aggressively campaigning against the farm laws, so to counter her, we have launched these padyatras, which are the best way to connect with farmers. We are trying to convince them by telling the truth about how these new laws will transform their lives,” BJP MP Locket Chatterjee said.
Amit Shah’s Durga Puja outreach
Durga Puja has previously proved to be a chance for parties to connect with Bengal’s voters, and now the BJP plans to capitalise on the festive season, despite the Covid risk.
The party plans to launch membership drives at puja pandals and, like last year, it will set up stalls to spread awareness about the history of the BJP, featuring books like the autobiography of one of its ideological founts, Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
At a Thursday meeting, Bengal BJP leaders requested Amit Shah to visit the state during the puja, and he agreed. This will be the home minister’s first visit outside Delhi since recovering from Covid-19. He had addressed a virtual meeting with party workers in Bengal in June.
Shah had also visited Kolkata last year and visited a Durga Puja pandal. This time too, he is likely to visit one, and address BJP workers.
Bengal BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu told ThePrint that the party will firm up the plan for Shah’s visit after completing the protests it is organising. “It will not be a grand visit due to Covid, but Bengal is his focus state, and of course, he will galvanise the party,” he said.