Days before BJP chief Amit Shah is sheduled to kick off the rath yatras in the state, senior party leaders engaged in ‘Jan Sampark’ (public outreach) activities in Cooch Behar to garner support.
BJP general secretary and party’s co-observer for West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya started a Jan Sampark Abhiyan at Cooch Behar on Wednesday and interacted with locals. In a bid to to reach out to them more effectively, he held a ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ and spoke to participants about various central government schemes and projects. Vijayvargiya alleged that TMC workers are preventing BJP activists from taking part in the rath yatras.
Rath yatra to gauge public opinion for poll strategy too
Though its ‘rath yatras’ have been styled as ‘Ganatantra Bachao Yatra’ (Save Democracy in Bengal), BJP leaders said they also want to test the waters in Bengal before moving full throttle against TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The yatras will address issues of infiltration, NRC and “minority appeasement by the TMC government”. A BJP source said this is a perfect opportunity to see whether people respond to these issues, and that the party’s state unit will prepare its poll strategy accordingly. “We have so far received mixed reviews from the people of Bengal regarding NRC. Infiltration is also an issue which concerns people. Our leaders will highlight these issues while during the 40-day long rath yatras. If we don’t receive a positive response, our leaders might drop them from poll campaigning,” said the source.
“The TMC workers are beating up our party activists and damaging our banners and posters which were put up to campaign for the rath yatras. They are even threatening bus drivers not to provide us the service. Despite being given the advance, they are returning the money to us,” he said.
Party leaders said Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal and his Tripura counterpart Biplab Deb are expected to attend the yatras.
There were reports that banners and flexes bearing Shah’s photograph were torn up at several places. “Despite such attacks, we are confident that thousands will attend the yatras. They will come because they know that we are fighting against these atrocities and misrule of TMC,” added the BJP leader. State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the rath yatra on three occasions.
Meanwhile, North Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh said, “Our workers are busy making preparations for our rally. We are not bothered about their rath yatra, which will turn out to be a damp squib”.
…Meanwhile, TMC distributes drums, cymbals for ‘kirtan yatras’
While BJP’s Birbhum unit is prepping for its December 14 ‘rath yatra’, the TMC has begun distributing ‘khols’ (drums) and ‘kartals’ (cymbals) among performers who will sing religious songs at their ‘kirtan yatras’, to be held on the same day.
“We believe in Hindu religion. Earlier, we had organised a Brahmin Sammelan. This time we have decided to distribute khol and kartals among religious performers who have found it difficult to buy these instruments following an increase in their prices. On December 14, there will be rallies in every block of Birbhum, where these performers will play the instruments. This will signal the beginning of the end for BJP, and we have to purify the district as well,” TMC’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal said.
At an event in Bolpur, about 4,000 khols and 8,000 kartals were distributed among performers from 29 blocks of Birbhum district and 5 blocks of neighbouring East Burdwan. Sources said about Rs 2 crore was spent on these instruments. On the dais, Mondal also felicitated some veteran performers.
“We have to ensure that these performers are taken care of. The situation in the country is grim and there are no jobs for the people. Our party works for all and no one should be deprived,” Mondal said. ens