After yesterday’s marathon political events and with handful of TMC MPs and MLAs in his kitty, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday will pay homage to Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore at Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal’s Santiniketan.
The Bolpur town has been filled with huge banners and cut-outs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah and the state leaders. After paying homage to Rabindranath Tagore, the Union Home minister will visit the house of Bengali folk singer Basudeb Das Baul in Syambati area for lunch. And then there will be a mega road show of Shah from Dakbangla More to Chowrasta in Bolpur.
Anticipating violent protests from Left student’s unions, adequate security arrangements have been made to avert any law and order situation in the area.
Meanwhile, a student of Visva-Bharati University identified as Falguni Pal issued a statement claiming that he was kept under house arrest because they were opposing Shah’s visit to Santiniketan.
Speaking to News18, BJP’s Birbhum district president Shyamapada Mondal said, “All preparations have been done and we are eager to welcome Amit Shah in Bolpur. We are expecting a huge number of people during the roadshow.”
Shah’s Bolpur visit is a well-crafted strategy of the saffron brigade ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls because the party has failed to perform well in this part of the ‘rarh Bangla region’.
Going by the statistics, there are two Lok Sabha seats in Birbhum district, including Bolpur and Birbhum, and there are 11 Assembly seats out of 294. BJP lost both the Lok Sabha seats.
The assembly seats in Birbhum district are Dubrajpur, Seuri, Bolpur, Sainthia, Rampurhat, Muraria, Hansan, Mayureswar, Labhpur and Nanur.
In 2016 Assembly polls, out of 11, TMC won nine seats while Nanur was secured by the CPI(M) and Congress won the Hansan seat.
So what prompted Shah to visit Bolpur?
The answer is: Though BJP did not win both the Bolpur and Birbhum seats in 2019 Lok Sabha, but the saffron brigade was leading in five out of 11 Assembly seats in the Birbhum district.
So, is it Shah’s move to create an anti-incumbency mood in favour of the BJP? Well, this will be known only after the poll results but at present, ground reality suggests that it won’t be a cakewalk for the BJP.
Political expert Kapil Thakur said, “In 2019, when BJP was gaining ground in North Bengal and in Jangalmahal, Birbhum was the only ‘rarh’ Bangla region where they failed to win both the Lok Sabha seats. This happened despite them leading in several assemblies and in the municipal wards. So, this time Amit Shah wants to start where his party had left in the last general election. His visit to Bolpur on Sunday is just to bring the party’s strategy and cadres in order to achieve some significant gains. It is a well thought plan. It was not casually crafted”.
A close look revealed that BJP was ahead as compared to TMC in Dubrajpur, Seuri, Sainthia, Rampurhat and Mayureswar in 2016 state polls. While in Dubrajpur, BJP took a lead with nearly 18,000 votes, in rest of the seats the saffron brigade was ahead by nearly 15,000, 300, 10,000 and 3,000 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Not the least, there are six municipal boards in Birbhum district including Dubrajpur, Seuri, Sainthia, Rampurhat, Bolpur and Nalhati, and in all the boards BJP was leading in the last Lok Sabha in 2019.
Significantly, the growing influence of BJP is not only restricted to the Assembly seats and Municipal boards (despite losing both the Bolpur and Birbhum Lok Sabha seats).
Also, there were 19 municipal wards where BJP was leading in the districts during the last Lok Sabha. This includes ward number 15 of TMC Birbhum President Anubrata Mindal. At ward number 15 there are six booths and in all the six booths the BJP was leading during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
At booth level, the BJP is concerned about approximately 250 booths in Nalhati (which comprises 48-50 per cent Muslim population), Hansan (nearly 54 per cent) and Muraria (nearly 70 percent) out of 3,021 booths in Birbhum district which is dominated by the Muslims. However, in the rest of the booths they have their workers ready to face the battle.
According to Election Commission (EC) statistics, though the BJP lost to the TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Birbhum (TMC’s Satabdi Roy defeated BJP’s Dudh Kumar Mondal by 88,917 votes) and Bolpur (TMC’s Asit Kumar Mal defeated BJP’s Ram Prasad Das by 106403 votes) seats, the vote percentage of the saffron party has increased significantly to 20.52 percent in the Birbhum Lok Sabha seat. Similarly, in Birbhum Lok Sabha seat its vote percentage increased to 25.44 percent.
As compared to BJP’s vote percentage, TMC’s vote share in Birbhum and Bolpur Lok Sabha seats decreased by 7.32 per cent and 0.48 percent respectively.
Noticeably, even in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, TMC’s vote share in Birbhum (despite winning the seat by Satabdi Roy) dropped by 11.72 per cent. Then, BJP’s Joy Banerjee was in the third position but despite that the party’s vote share increased remarkably to 13.85 per cent.
In Bolpur, during 2014 Lok Sabha, TMC’s Anupam Hazra (now joined BJP) defeated CPI(M)’s Dr Ram Chandra Dome by 2,36,109 votes. BJP’s Kamini Mohan Sarkar stood third but despite that party’s vote percentage increased by 8.64 per cent.
Therefore, to give a momentum and to turn the increased vote shares into numbers, Shah has strategically decided to pick Bolpur as his destination to the sound the poll bugle with his road show.
Last but not the least, Santiniketan in Bolpur instantly connects with the heart of millions of Bengalis, which actually matters when it comes to urban vote share in the state.