Bolpur (WB), December 20
Having dented Mamata Banerjee’s citadel a day before, a triumphant Amit Shah drove through the Bolpur city centre on Sunday like a victor amid showers of marigold petals and chants of “Jai Shri Ram”.
The architect of BJP’s resurgence in the state once considered a Left bastion and then Mamata Banerjee’s fiefdom, asserted the saffron party will form the next government with over 200 seats. West Bengal has a 294-member state assembly.
He repeatedly attacked the Banerjee government over “corruption, extortion, and Bangladeshi infiltration” patronised by “bhatija”, a reference to TMC MP and Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee. And the crowds roared in approval.
The cavalcade rolled through the streets of Bolpur, the town associated with Bengali literary and cultural giant Rabindranath Tagore, like a victor’s parade.
Shah had virtually pulled off a coup a day before when Suvendu Adhikari, by far the biggest mass leader after Mamata Banerjee, led a parade of nine MLAs and a TMC MP into the TMC.
“People of West Bengal are yearning for change as they want to get rid of political violence, corruption, extortion and Bangladeshi infiltration,” Shah said addressing the gathering at Bolpur from a truck decorated with marigold flowers and cloth in shades of saffron.
BJP flags fluttered atop homes and tree tops, people showered the cavalcade with flower petals, and green and saffron gulal lent an air of festivity to the roadshow.
Women in the crowd that lined the streets shot videos of places teeming with people, as Shah’s entourage crawled its way from Hanuman Mandir to Dak Bunglow, a distance of a km and half, that took more than an hour to complete.
Speaking to journalists later, Shah referred to the recent attack on BJP president J P Nadda’s convoy in West Bengal and excoriated the Mamata Banerjee government over the law and order situation in the state.
Quoting data, Shah claimed the state had fared abysmally on development indices including health care and education.
He alleged Banerjee and the ruling TMC were raking up the “outsider-insider” issue to divert public attention from the failures of the state government, and asserted that a “son of the soil” will lead the state if the saffron party was voted to power.
“I think Mamata di has forgotten a few things. Did she call Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao outsiders when they used to come to West Bengal when she was with the Congress? Does she want a country where people from one state cannot visit another?” he asked.
He also attacked the Banerjee government over alleged Bangladeshi infiltration, and asserted only a BJP government can stop it.
Shah, in an apparent attempt to trash the outsider tag, visited places linked to Bengali cultural icons.
He visited Shantiniketan and the Visva Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore, tapped his fingers on the arm of the chair he was seated on at the home of Basudeb Das, a baul singer, and had lunch with them.
Baul singers are minstrels unique to Bengali culture who sing songs that are a mix of Sufi and Sahaja music of Bengal.
Shah’s first port of call on Saturday as part of his “Mission Bengal” was Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral home in Kolkata where he lauded the saint-philosopher for taking India’s culture and ethos to the world.
His next stop was the ancestral home of the boy martyr of the freedom struggle Khudiram Bose in Midnapore. Bose was executed in 1908 when he was just 18 years old.
“I want to tell those who are doing narrow politics in Bengal that Khudiram Bose is as much a pride of India as he is of Bengal,” he asserted, in an apparent allusion to Mamata Banerjee. PTI