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Focus on women voters — how BJP plans to dent Mamata’s support in West Bengal

BJP general secretary BL Santosh and other leaders held meetings with Bengal unit to get campaign for 2021 polls rolling. Booth-level activities & women voters key focus points.

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New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s popularity has diminished among women, but is not yet lost and BJP state unit must focus on more participation of women in the party’s booth-level activities to counter the CM’s crucial vote bank.

This is what BJP general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santosh told party workers in the first zonal level review meetings of the state party unit held Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the preparations for the crucial 2021 assembly elections.

BJP leaders, who attended the meeting, told ThePrint Santosh listed 23 organisational activities to be carried out in the next two months.

These activities include organising padyatras by BJP women morcha workers at every booth and mandal, cycle rally by youth morcha workers, and prabhat pheri (morning rallies) by women. The high command also suggested inducting at least four women in every booth and mandal committee.

Before the campaign for the 2021 elections begin, BJP central leaders assembled in Kolkata Tuesday for a two-day meeting to assess the state unit’s preparation for the election, zone wise.

Besides BJP West Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, the central high command had sent Santosh and newly appointed co-incharges for the state, Amit Malviya and Arvind Menon, to attend the meetings.

During the review meetings, Santosh assigned every zonal in-charge the list of the 23 works which have to be implemented at the ground level before campaigning for the election starts, said BJP leaders.

The party has already formed an 11-member committee, which will have three national general secretaries, and five national secretaries as members. These five secretaries will also be the in-charge of the five zones the party has divided the state into — North Bengal, Rarh Banga (south-western districts), Nabadwip, Midnapore and Kolkata.

Senior BJP leaders Sunil Deodhar, Vinod Tawde, Dushyant Gautam, Harish Dwivedi and Vinod Sonkar have been appointed to oversee these zones.

State BJP leaders Amit Chakraborty and Kishore Burman will also be part of the committee, which will oversee the poll preparations, strategise and also coordinate.

Also read: Ghosh vs Khan in Bengal BJP is a fight for control between old guard & Trinamool defectors

Focus on silent women voters

During his visit to the state earlier this month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had asked the state unit to induct four women in every booth committee.

In the zonal review meetings, Santosh too focused on greater women participation at every step of the party’s organisational structure.

Santosh told the state unit to appoint women as members of every booth and mandal committee, beside identifying more of them for on-ground election work.

He also told the state unit to organise special padyatras by women morcha workers at every booth and later in the whole constituency. Further, he asked for holding of prabhat pheris in every ward and mandal in which women will be expected to the take lead.

The BJP’s renewed focus on women voters comes from the party’s recent victory in the Bihar election, in which women were believed to have swung the election in NDA’s favour.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also credited the Bihar victory to these “silent voters”.

The women vote-bank has become one of most crucial vote banks in West Bengal now, with every party eager to garner support from this section. These voters had backed Banerjee in the 2016 assembly election and the CM rewarded them with her government’s flagship Kanyashree and Rupashree schemes which were aimed at providing girls with cash for their education and marriage.

Women form 48 per cent of the electorate in West Bengal, making them one of the most bankable vote banks.

The ruling Trinamool Congress had fielded 41 per cent women candidates in 2019’s Lok Sabha election and 45 women candidates in the 2016 assembly election. The BJP had fielded 31 women candidates in the last assembly election.

Cut to 2020, the BJP has already deployed its women leaders Locket Chatterjee, Bharti Ghosh, Debasree Chaudhuri and Agnimitra Paul for women voters’ mobilisation. The party’s confidence also grew when women took the lead in protesting, with a jhadu (broom), the irregularities in the state government’s Amphan relief distribution earlier this year.

But BJP leaders believe CM Mamata, popularly called ‘didi’ (elder sister), still maintains a good connect with women and, therefore, the party needs to be more aggressive in increasing participation of women at the organisational level to dent Trinamool’s vote bank.

Speaking to ThePrint, Agnimitra Paul, chief of Bengal BJP’s women morcha, said that while  ‘Kanyashree’ and ‘Rupashree’ were good schemes launched by the state, there are no good schools in villages, no toilets in schools, and no teachers. 

“What will the girls do with Mamata’s cycles? There is no security for women despite the state having a woman CM. There is terrible healthcare in West Bengal … there is no employment opportunity for women … women will punish Mamata in this election,” she said.

“We have made inroads in women segment through ‘Ujjwala’ scheme (aimed at providing LPG connection to women in BPL families), we have enhanced participation of women in the party organisation through various programmes … the prime minister has huge appeal among women, they trust him,” she added.

Also read: BJP’s big Bengal plan for October — Amit Shah puja visit, women’s defence training, protests

Focus on booth management  

In review meetings, BJP central leaders emphasised on ensuring efficient and effective booth management. They chalked out a detailed plan for booth sammelan (conferences), felicitation of booth pramukhs (in-charges) and holding organisational activities such as a cycle rally by youth morcha workers.

BJP MP Arjun Singh told ThePrint that the people are “ready for a change”. “They are ready to vote … we have to ensure solid booth management. If our people will stand on booths without fear, Mamata will lose by a huge margin. The verdict will depend on booth management. The central leadership has asked for more vibrant and active booth management.”

Dushyant Gautam, BJP general secretary, told ThePrint that since Bengal has been the focus state for the home minister, he has been monitoring and shaping the party’s election strategy.

The BJP Bengal unit has been told that Shah will visit the state every month till the election to oversee preparations and campaigning.

Also read: ‘Laal Salaam’ to ‘Jai Shri Ram’ — new book traces BJP’s unprecedented rise in West Bengal


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