Following Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Kapil Moreshwar Patel, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Sindia will campaign in West Bengal this month, becoming the third BJP central leader to visit the state as part of the party’s “Lok Sabha Pravas Yojana” awareness campaign.
The BJP – which has been on an electoral decline since last year’s assembly election – announced its best-ever parliamentary electoral performance in West Bengal in 2019 with a victory of 18 constituencies. Now, with the next Lok Sabha ballot two years away, it is looking to increase its seat count to 35. The party’s focus is in particular on the 19 constituencies it did not win in the last general election, and ministers and central leaders have been charged with the responsibility of promoting cabinet-level organization in these seats.
The party insiders said that the central leaders will carry in seats like Malda Dakshin, Asansul, Krishnangar, Pulpur, Birbhum, Goingar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbor, Dum Dum, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin, Kolkata Uttar, Howrah, Uluberia, Srirampur, Arambagh, Tamlok, Ghattal and Brahman Borba. With the exception of Malda Dakshin, which is under Congressional control, the other seats are currently held by the Trinamol Congress (TMC). The ruling party lost Asansol in 2019 but won it in a subpoll in April.
Apart from Irani, Patel and Scindia, the central leaders of the campaign deployed in these constituencies are Virendra Kumar, Ajay Bhatt, Rameshwar Teli, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Pratima Bhumik, SP Singh Bagel, Dharmendra Pradhan, Kailash Chaudhry, Hardeep Singh Puri and Pankaj Choudhury.
BJP sources said that Scindia was due to arrive in the state on Thursday (21 July) for a three-day trip and would campaign in Dum Dum in North 24 Parganas district to take part in the “Sachaktikaran Booth” campaign. Earlier this month, the Iranians launched a campaign in Howrah circle while Patel did the same in Kolkata Dakshin. Pradhan is set to campaign in Kolkata Uttar, Jadavpur, Puri in Tamlok, Bagel in Mathurapur and Arambagh.
BJP circles miss
Among the seats that will not be covered by the BJP campaign are Baharampur, Ganjpur, Murshidabad, Parasat, Prakpur, Basirat and Kanthi.
Among these constituencies, Baharampur, Janjipur and Murshidabad are in the Murshidabad district, which has the largest Muslim population in the state (66.27 percent as per the 2011 census). The BJP’s voting shares in these constituencies in 2019 were 11.12 percent, 24.52 percent and 17.22 percent, respectively. While the TMC won Janjipur and Rashidabad, the Congress took control of Baharampur.
Barasat, Basirhat and Barrackpore are located in North 24 Parganas, a stronghold of TMC. The BJP won Barakpur in 2019 but MP Arjun Singh returned to the ruling party in May. In Brazat and Busayrat, the party’s vote shares were 39.07 and 30.31 percent, respectively. The opposition party has also excluded Kanthi in the Borba district of Medinipur since it is controlled by Cesir Adhikari, father of opposition leader Sovindo Adhikari.
BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “Our central leaders will visit these constituencies in a bid to strengthen the party’s organization at cabinet level. They will talk about central government projects and how they have changed people’s lives.”
The TMC refused to attach importance to the planned BJP programmes. “Central leaders of the BJP campaigned extensively in West Bengal during the 2021 state assembly elections. But the party suffered a massive defeat here,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.