BJP president Amit Shah lands in Kolkata around noon today on a visit that had turned contentious soon after it was announced. First, when the BJP claimed Kolkata Police was not giving it permission to hold the meeting and later, when posters and placards came up around the venue for Mr Shah’s rally in the state capital, calling the BJP “anti-Bengali” and telling the party to quit Bengal.
The BJP has labelled a statewide protest called by the Trinamool Congress against the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam on Saturday morning an attempt to sabotage Mr Shah’s rally.
In letters sent to the state administration and the home ministry in Delhi, the state BJP has said the timing of the road blockades to be set up by the Trinamool Congress were aimed at interfering and interrupting the BJP’s supporters from entering the state capital to hear Mr Shah, considered the BJP’s master strategist.
If Trinamool protesters stop BJP rallyists from reaching the Amit Shah venue – and they are sure to, the state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh has said, then there will be clashes and the Trinamool will be to blame.
Mr Shah’s Kolkata visit is part of his effort to rapidly expand the party’s base that sends 42 lawmakers to Lok Sabha. In 2014, it had won just 2 seats from Bengal and hopes to improve its tally in 2019. The BJP chief has handed his party an ambitious target of 50 per cent Lok Sabha seats in the state.
There will be return fire from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress too which timed its state-wide protest with Amit Shah’s rally.
At last count, the political temperature in Bengal has been shooting up over the last fortnight or so over Assam’s citizens’ list, more so after Bengal chief minister controversially claimed that it could trigger violence, even civil war. Mr Shah promptly hit back, insisting that his government would ensure that the court verdict on the citizens’ scheme was implemented down to the last “full stop and comma”.
The citizens’ list is expected to be a key talking point in Mr Shah’s speech at Kolkata’s Mayo Road grounds. There will be return fire from the Trinamool Congress too which timed its state-wide protest with Mr Shah’s rally.
Ms Banerjee had once been a vocal votary of deporting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But a decade back, CPM was still the dominant political force in Bengal and enjoyed support of the Muslim community including pockets widely perceived to be inhabited by illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
Analysts say Mamata Banerjee’s sharp rhetoric against evicting illegal immigrants has much to do with her effort to nurture this vote bank to retain their support.