BJP president Amit Shah has landed in Kolkata this afternoon on a visit that turned contentious soon after it was announced. First, the BJP claimed Kolkata Police was not giving it permission to hold the public rally at the venue of its choice. Finally, they did get permission for the rally at the prime location — Mayo Road, in central Kolkata.
Once the venue issue was sorted out, the next flashpoint is over posters and placards at the venue for Mr Shah’s rally, calling the BJP “anti-Bengali” and telling the party to quit Bengal.
Finally, the Trinamool Congress went ahead and called for protests today against the National Register of Citizens or NRC in Assam. The protests are to take place across Bengal, but not in Kolkata. The BJP claims the protests are an attempt to sabotage Mr Shah’s rally.
In letters sent to the state administration and the home minister in Delhi, the state BJP has said the timing of the Trinamool protests was aimed at preventing BJP’s supporters from entering the state capital to hear Mr Shah speak.
Amit Shah’s visit is part of his effort to rapidly expand the BJP’s base
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 two 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 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. 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.
The BJP claims 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.