After Union ministers Smriti Irani and Kapil Moreshwar Patil, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will campaign in West Bengal this month, becoming the third central BJP leader to visit the state as part of the party’s “Lok Sabha Pravas Yojana” outreach campaign.
The BJP — which has been on an electoral slide since the Assembly elections last year — posted its best-ever parliamentary election performance in West Bengal in 2019 by winning 18 constituencies. Now, with the next Lok Sabha polls two years away, it is looking to increase its tally to 35 seats. The party’s special focus is on 19 Lok Sabha constituencies that it did not win in the last general elections, and central ministers and leaders have been given the responsibility of strengthening the booth-level organisation in these seats.
Party insiders said central leaders would campaign in seats such as Malda Dakshin, Asansol, Krishnanagar, Bolpur, Birbhum, Joynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Dum Dum, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin, Kolkata Uttar, Howrah, Uluberia, Srerampur, Arambagh, Tamluk, Ghatal, and Bardhaman Purba. Except for Malda Dakshin, which is under Congress control, the other seats are held by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) at present. The ruling party lost Asansol in 2019 but won it in a by-poll in April.
Apart from Irani, Patil, and Scindia, the central leaders deployed to campaign in these constituencies are Virendra Kumar, Ajay Bhatt, Rameshwar Teli, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Pratima Bhowmik, SP Singh Baghel, Dharmendra Pradhan, Kailash Chaudhury, Hardeep Singh Puri, and Pankaj Chaudhury.
Sources in the BJP said Scindia was scheduled to arrive in the state on Thursday (July 21) for a three-day trip and would campaign in Dum Dum in North 24 Parganas district to participate in a “booth sashaktikaran” drive. Earlier this month, Irani campaigned in Howrah constituency while Patil did the same in Kolkata Dakshin. Pradhan is scheduled to campaign in Kolkata Uttar and Jadavpur, Puri in Tamluk, and Baghel in Mathurapur and Arambagh.
Constituencies BJP is giving a miss
Among the seats that the BJP campaign won’t cover are Baharampur, Jangipur, Murshidabad, Barasat, Barrackpore, Basirhat, and Kanthi.
Of these constituencies, Baharampur, Jangipur, and Murshidabad are in Murshidabad district, which has the highest Muslim population in the state (66.27 per cent as per the 2011 Census). The BJP’s vote shares in these constituencies in 2019 were 11.12 per cent, 24.52 per cent and 17.22 per cent respectively. While the TMC won Jangipur and Murshidabad, the Congress bagged Baharampur.
Barasat, Basirhat, and Barrackpore are in North 24 Parganas, which is a TMC stronghold. The BJP won Barrackpore in 2019 but its MP Arjun Singh returned to the ruling party in May. In Barasat and Basirhat, the party’s vote shares were 39.07 and 30.31 per cent respectively. The Opposition party has also left out Kanthi in Purba Medinipur district since it is held by Sisir Adhikari, the father of Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari.
Senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “Our central leaders will visit these constituencies in a bid to strengthen the booth-level organisation of the party. They will talk about the Central government’s projects and how those have changed lives of people.”
The TMC refused to attach importance to the BJP’s planned programmes. “The central leaders of the BJP extensively campaigned in West Bengal during the 2021 state Assembly polls. But the party suffered a massive defeat here,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.