The West Bengal assembly elections will not see as much of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Bihar polls did. He will address only seven to 10 rallies and refrain from a “negative” campaign, BJP sources said — an apparent lesson drawn from the rout in Bihar.
The election will be fought on what the party is offering to the state and what the Modi-led government has done so far, they added.
However, as in Bihar, the BJP will not project a chief ministerial candidate.
BJP chief Amit Shah will not address many public rallies either. “This is to give more prominence to state leaders and those who have been working in the state. Besides, language will be an issue for the party chief,” said a BJP leader. The state unit has demanded more rallies with Union ministers Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani, who can speak Bengali. They also want Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to make announcements that would have an “immediate” impact on middle-income voters.
The campaign will, however, still have some elements of earlier ones by the BJP. The BJP will be vocal about the Trinamool Congress government’s “appeasement policies” for Muslims. The prime minister will visit Gaudiya Math for its centenary celebrations in Kolkata on February 21, and the party hopes this will send the “right” signals to the Hindus in the state.
The Gaudiya Math and Mission has around 75 lakh followers across the state. BJP leaders say they will play a “soft Hindutva” card by reaching out also to followers of Ramakrishna Mission, which has around one crore followers in Bengal.
Although the focus will be the alleged failures of Mamata Banerjee’s government, the party will frame slogans with a positive message.
“We will focus on what the BJP can do where the present and past governments have failed. For example, for the crisis-hit agrarian sector, the party will project the new crop insurance scheme, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, as a solution. Another issue, that of hawkers, can be resolved through micro-financing, which is being offered under the Mudra banking scheme,” said Siddharth Nath Singh, BJP national secretary in charge of West Bengal.
BJP general secretary in charge of the state Kailash Vijayvargiya and Singh met Tuesday to discuss the campaign.
A BJP leader said the party has observed that voters in the state have become increasingly disappointed with the “undemocratic” way in which elections are being held. The BJP’s theme would be “Ab ki baar adhikar”. This means, he explained, that under the BJP the rights of every citizen will be honoured — for women, the issue will be safety; for hawkers; self-financing; for police, self-respect. The party plans to distribute pictures of policemen seeking refuge under a table to escape an attack on a police station in Kolkata recently.
Other slogans will include “Ma, Maati, Manush surakshit nahin hain”.
The BJP is also preparing a list of promises made by Mamata, Mukul Roy and Dinesh Trivedi as railway ministers in the past. “They have made many promises, but 90 per cent of them are still unfulfilled,” said the leader.
The BJP, which led 24 assembly segments in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and was in second place in 28 others, will also use social media extensively. It has collected data — out of West Bengal’s 6 crore voters, one crore have smart phones and 3.7 crore are mobile users, a leader said.
The party is in the process of deciding which constituencies would be ideal for its top leaders such as Rahul Sinha, Rupa Ganguly, Samik Bhattacharya, Locket Chatterjee and Ritesh Tiwari.
The BJP has appealed to the Election Commission for measures to prevent rigging and is hoping the EC will appoint presiding officers from the central forces. There are 77,000 booths in West Bengal.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has already promised that the Centre would deploy as many paramilitary personnel as necessary to ensure a free and fair election.