2019 elections: Rath Yatra a game changer in West Bengal politics, says BJP

BJP National President Amit Shah. Photo: PTI

With an eye on the next general elections, the BJP is all set to begin its high profile Rath Yatra from December 7, claiming that it would prove to be a "game changer" in West Bengal politics.

BJP president Amit Shah will kickstart the campaign titled 'Save Democracy Rally'.

The campaign is scheduled to begin from Coochbehar district in the north on December 7, from Kakdwip in the south 24 Parganas district on December 9 and from the Tarapith temple in Birbhum district on December 14.

"The Rath Yatra will be a game changer in West Bengal politics. This will kickstart a wave of support in favour of the BJP and will become a deciding factor in the next general elections," BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told PTI.

This is for the first time that the BJP has undertaken a political campaign of such a huge magnitude, covering nearly 10,000 kms, in the state.

Three air-conditioned buses decorated as chariots carrying Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders will criss-cross the entire state for nearly 40 days starting from December 7, covering all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.

Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah, several top BJP leaders and chief ministers such as Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Raman Singh, Yogi Adityanath, Uma Bharati and Giriraj Singh will also participate in the campaign.

The chariots would have pictures of some of the Bengal-born personalities like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Swami Vivekananda.

Modi is also likely to attend four rallies to give a thrust to the party's campaign in the state ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

"People will come out on the streets and join our rally irrespective of caste, religion and creed," Ghosh said.

The party's Rath Yatra comes at a time when the BJP has made steady inroads in the state with the saffron party winning more than 7,000 seats in the three-tier Panchayat polls held in May this year.

In several by-elections held since the 2016 assembly polls, the BJP has emerged as the biggest competition to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) by outsmarting the CPI(M) and the Congress.

Shah had set a target of winning 22 Lok Sabha seats out of 42 seats in the state.

The party has already prepared a blue print and has also chalked out seats where the BJP's chances of winning is more than 60 to 70 per cent. The seats are spread across north Bengal, south Bengal and tribal-dominated districts of Junglemahal, said a senior BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.

Some of the seats which the BJP will be targeting in the next Lok Sabha polls are Balurghat, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Malda North in north Bengal and Purulia, Jhargram, Medinipur, Krishnagar, Howrah in south Bengal, he said.

According to BJP sources, the party's main purpose of conducting Rath Yatras is to strengthen its organisation and reach out to the maximum number of polling booths in the state. West Bengal has around 77,000 polling booths.

Another reason is to create a wave against the TMC government over its alleged anti-people policies, the sources said.

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed that the campaign will expose the "misrule and corruption" of the state government.

"The police is acting as if they are party members of the TMC. We would expose the criminalisation of politics and politicisation of the administration pursued by the TMC government in the state. This Rath Yatra is being conducted to save democracy in West Bengal," Vijayvargiya told PTI.

The party will also use this as an opportunity to spread awareness about NRC in Assam, he said.

The BJP has also prepared leaflets which will be distributed in various areas of the state. The leaflets highlight the need for an NRC in West Bengal and passage of the Citizenship Bill, Vijayvargiya said.

The party has also engaged its Minority Morcha wing to ensure active participation of Muslims in the campaign.

"Muslims comprise nearly 30 per cent of the state's population and if the party has to win elections in West Bengal, we have to take them along with us," BJP state Minority Morcha chief Ali Hossain said, adding that the party had fielded more than 850 Muslim candidates in the Panchayat polls and nearly half of them had won.

The minority community plays a deciding factor in at least 10-12 parliamentary seats of the state.

While the BJP is buoyant over the Rath Yatra, the TMC leadership, however, alleged that the main purpose of the campaign is to create communal tensions in the state.

"The main agenda of the BJP is to create communal rift in West Bengal. But their agenda of dividing people on religious lines will fail," TMC secretary Partha Chatterjee said.

Rubbishing all the allegations of Chatterjee, Vijayvargiya claimed that it is the TMC which pursues the policy of appeasement as the BJP believes in the politics of "Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas".

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