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BJP boost and blow

Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha speaks at the Brigade rally. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta, Feb. 5: The Bengal BJP today said the Brigade turnout of “over 1.5 lakh” had encouraged it to consolidate its organisation in the state but a section in the party is disappointed that Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh did not target Mamata Banerjee.

State BJP leaders said the “big gathering” at the prime ministerial candidate’s maiden Brigade rally would boost the morale of the rank and file at a time the party was struggling to create a political space in the state in the aftermath of the poor performance in last year’s panchayat polls.

“The big turnout at Modiji’s rally today has proved that the BJP is emerging as an alternative force in Bengal. We will showcase the people’s spontaneous participation in the rally to counter Trinamul and the Left,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha said tonight.

Bengal BJP leaders said the attendance at Brigade had surpassed those at the rallies Atal Bihari Vajpayee had addressed at the same venue in the 90s.

Sinha said the party’s district unit chiefs would be asked to reach out to people in remote villages and tell them that Modi had requested Bengal’s voters to support all 42 BJP candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.

“Party leaders will begin the process of consolidating the organisation at the grassroots. They will launch door-to-door campaigns to spread Modiji’s message,” he added.

Some state BJP leaders said they were “disheartened” because both Modi and the party’s national president, Rajnath Singh, did not criticise Mamata.

At the rally, Modi spoke of the “triple benefits” of voting for the BJP and included chief minister Mamata in the scheme of things.

“This time, vote for the BJP. There will be triple benefits. Mamataji will help the state progress. I will look after you from Delhi and Pranab dada (President Pranab Mukherjee) is yours,” the Gujarat chief minister said.

BJP national president Singh backed Mamata’s demand for a three-year moratorium on repayment of debt incurred by the Left Front government and the interest.

“Since Bengal has demanded that the Centre grant a three-year moratorium on debt repayment, it should be granted so that the state government can work to help the poor. The Trinamul government should be given a bail-out package for the revival of Bengal’s economy,” he said.

A former state BJP president said Modi’s comments amounted to “showering praise” on Mamata.

A section in the state BJP said the remarks of Modi and Singh were a “hint” that the central leadership was “keeping the option of a tie-up with Trinamul open”.

At the rally, state BJP chief Sinha, MP Shahnawaz Hussain and the BJP’s central observer for Bengal, Siddharthnath Singh, tore into Mamata for the rise in violence against women in the state.

Asked about the differences in the approaches of the national and state leaders, former Bengal BJP president Asim Ghosh said: “Our central leaders’ wavelength do not match with that of the state leaders. The central leaders have to keep in mind national compulsions while speaking in public.”