BJP may be politically a minor player in Bengal but the increasing popularity of its prime ministerial candidate is giving jitters to Mamata Banerjee. The force and intensity of it may be less than the Hindi heartlands, but slowly and steadily it has grown. Particularly abangali (non Bengali speaking) voters may have a case of “Namo”nia as diagnosed by TMC’s poll doctors.
Among the non Bengali primarily Hindi speaking voters, BJP has always been an attractive option. The likes of Meena Devi Purohit have been extremely popular in their region. But in major elections, often these voters have chosen to back the “winnable” candidate. By default it was the Left Front for a long time. From the poor slum dwellers to the rich business tycoons the entire gamut of non Bengalis voted en masse for the Left. With paribartan (change) in government, the allegiance also shifted starkly. Businessman who earlier used to hobnob with the Left leaders now made it a point to attend didi’s social gatherings.
But a couple of incidents seems to have taken a toll on this newly forged friendship. The unfortunate AMRI tragedy of 2012 took lives of nearly 100 innocents. Police acted swiftly to put the owners behind bar. They were in custody for a prolonged time before they got bail. This “harsh” attitude of law enforcers didn’t went well with the Marwari community. Also didi’s muddled land acquisition policy has meant industrialisation virtually stagnant. This has made the business class restless, from large traders to the small ones.
These factors along with the perceived Narendra Modi wave have ensured significant groundswell of support for BJP. If opinion polls are to be believed they are likely to double their vote share from 6% . There has been more than two-fold increase in the membership of the BJP’s state unit. Total membership has increased from 3 lakh in 2011 to more than 7 lakh in 2013 with two lakh new members enrolling in the last six months .The ABVP, youth wing of the BJP, too witnessed a surge in its membership with the enrolment of 45,000 new activists in the last one year. All these have been attributed to Narendra Modi factor as the saffron brigade doesn’t have much of an organization to boast about in the state.
In the final analysis, BJP may not get more than 1 seat (Darjeeling) but they can attract enough votes to upset TMC’s applecart. In constituencies with significant non Bengali population like Kolkata North, Howrah, Asansol etc it’s likely to be a significant player. It is slated to do well in border areas also. BJP has fielded stars like P. C. Sorcar, Bappi Lahiri and Babul Supriyo. The likes of Manoj Tiwari, Hema Malini and Smriti Irani are slated to come for campaign. Modi is coming again on 10th April. TMC is trying their best to counter this surge.
Ex Ficci top boss and current Finance Minister Amit Mitra is trying to allay fears of the trader community. Didi is also aggressively taking on BJP. In virtually every rally, she is trying to convince voters to dissuade from voting for the saffron brigade. In a sartorial reference to BJP’s election symbol lotus, she says, “Ei padme pujo hoe na” (No puja can’t be done with these lotuses). The Left and Congress don’t seem to have much of a plan. Left earlier had a cultural outreach plank to soft peddle its agenda to the Hindi speaking people. It is defunct now. The party hopes that traction for BJP will actually help them more seats via vote division. All in all, the Land of Vivekanda is finally warming up to his self-proclaimed follower and Didi is not taking that too kindly.