Updated: February 23, 2021 8:03:58 pm
“We want to see a change in the state leadership that will bring in employment opportunities in Bengal, especially for youths like us,” says Shankar Haldar, 25, as he waits for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hooghly’s Dunlop Ground on Monday.
An MA history student of Kalyani University and a resident of Jirat, Haldar has been supporting the BJP owing to its policies for four years. “Jaa bolechhe, tai korechhe (It has fulfilled its promises),” stresses Haldar wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Modipara’ and the map of Bengal. When asked about ‘Modipara’, he says: “We want to see the entire Bengal as Modi’s para (neighbourhood).”
Like Haldar, several other BJP supporters are donning other party merchandise — ‘Modi for PM’ caps, bandana and uttoriyo (stole) — and wax eloquent about the Central government’s achievements amid chants of ‘khela hobe, khela hobe’ (the game is on). Some of them have come just to see Modi.
“I am a Modi fan. After the CPM and Trinamool Congress, I want dada to come to power in Bengal and bring in poribortan (change),” said Sampa Dutta, 38, a resident of Kapasdanga and beneficiary of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
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Giving directions to party workers where to assemble, Hasina Bibi, 38, sounds upbeat that the BJP will do more for the minority community than the TMC. “Modi has declared the instant triple talaq illegal. As a woman chief minister, Mamata Banerjee did not even think of that.”
Shyamal Majhi, 32, a resident of Jamna in Hooghly, flags the issue of landless farm labourers and diversion of funds. “There are laws and benefits for farmers, but what about people like us who are landless farm labourers? The poor don’t even get 100-day work, whereas the rich are availing it,” he argues, “We were deprived of the PM Awas Yojana. And those who don’t qualify for the scheme, their names were enlisted.”
On the BJP chief ministerial candidate, Nabakumar Rajak (30), a party worker, believes that only a “forthright” Dilip Ghosh can fulfil the dream of ‘sonar Bangla’. Several BJP supporters second Rajak.
As the TMC continues to hit out the BJP as a party of outsiders, the gathering strikes a dissenting note. “All leaders are from India. If someone is from our country, then how can that person be an outsider,” contends Bishok Manjhi, 54.
Biplab Manna, 31, a resident of Singur, feels that the BJP can stem corruption. “The TMC is a party of corrupt people. CM’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee is involved in coal smuggling. That is why the CBI is raiding his house. ‘Dosh korechhe, saaja pachhe’ (He is being punished for his mistake).”
As soon as Modi walks up to the stage, a few scramble up a bamboo scaffolding to a catch a glimpse of him while for others, a quick snack break comes to an abrupt end. A 21-year-old BCom student is among those who have come to see Modi up close. “I want whoever is at the helm of affairs should create a business ecosystem in the state. And to begin with, the state government should reduce power tariffs. All factories are shutting down, and investors are reluctant to pump in money here. Mere distribution of cash or cycles won’t help. It may help earn a few votes, but won’t boost development,” said the student, who does not want to be named.
Some people in the audience suggest that the BJP should avoid doublespeak. “Here Locket Chatterjee (BJP’s Hooghly MP) is saying that her party will work for farmers while at the Delhi border, they are using their might to suppress the farmers’ agitation. This is hypocrisy. Many are naïve. They will believe what is being said, go back to their villages and vote for the BJP,” said Abhigyan Biswas, 27, a resident of Chandannagore and Delhi Bar Council lawyer.
After Modi concludes his speech and moves toward the helipad, local residents say such a big event was not held in recent memory. “The last time such a big rally was held at this ground was when then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya came after the Dunlop factory was shut down,” recollects Ghosh, who used to work in the firm since 1978.
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