April 27, 2017 1:00:21 am
Chittaranjan Avenue, one of central Kolkata’s main arterial roads, turned saffron on Wednesday, with rows of BJP flags and large hoardings of its national president Amit Shah lining the sides. Hundreds of BJP workers and supporters, many in saffron robes, filled Mahajati Sadan, the venue for Amit Shah’s speech to the “intelligentsia of West Bengal”.
Akanksha Basu (52) is a lawyer practising in the Calcutta High Court. “Most lawyers I know at the High Court received invitations for this event, and many have turned up,” she said. Basu herself hails from a traditional Congress family in Bengal, and her father was a Congress worker.
“Growing up during the Left regime, I saw exploitation and oppression under CPM. For many in the state, like me, voting for the CPM is out of the question,” she said.
The Congress is also no longer an option for her.
“I voted NOTA in the last election. When the Trinamool had first come to power, we had given the party our wholehearted support. But in the past six years, my visit to rural Bengal has shown me that there is very little difference between the Left and the TMC. They have both used oppression and the people have suffered. I don’t support the BJP at all. But I have come to listen to Amit Shah,” she said, adding the BJP has occupied a vacuum created after the Left’s defeat.
The BJP president’s speech to the state’s “intelligentsia” — lawyers, accountants, doctors and engineers — concentrated on the BJP’s development platform.
“My appeal to you is that if you are convinced listening to me, then help us bring about change in the state,” Shah said.
“There are 1,650 political parties in India. I can say with great pride that we are the only completely democratic party in the country right now — whether national or regional. Every three years, the president of the party is elected democratically. If I were to ask you who will be the president of the party after me, who will you name? You don’t know, do you? If I ask you who will be the president of the Congress after Sonia Gandhi? You know that already. If I ask you who will be the president of TMC after Mamata, you know that too, don’t you?” the BJP leader said.
The rest of Shah’s speech was a report card of the BJP’s achievements — from the electronic transfer of salaries under NREGA, growth in agriculture sector and GDP, employment, nutrition and LPG subsidies to the poor.
“The surgical strike has put us on the global map as a country that is not to be trifled with, a strong country. We are the fastest growing economy in the world. In two years, two crore households have been given gas connections in rural India. Four crore homes have received toilets, and 50 per cent of the population have jan dhan accounts. As far as demonetisation is concerned, international economists were amazed but Didi was worried. I can’t understand what she lost through demonetisation. What worries does someone wearing hawai sandals have?. It’s the black money hoarders who have been affected by this,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, four TMC leaders — Kanak Debnath, Manoj Pandey, Anupam Dutta and Ranjan Sen — joined the BJP on Wednesday in Shah’s presence. Debnath and Pandey had both joined the TMC last year from Congress in September, soon after TMC’s sweep in the Assembly elections.
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