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BJP raises civic pitch

Calcutta, May 21: The Bengal BJP is trying to capitalise on its gains in the state in the Lok Sabha polls and project itself as the main Opposition party by raising its voice against the government.

At a time the Left is busy analysing factors responsible for its poll debacle and the state Congress is in disarray, the Bengal BJP has decided to step up the ante against the Mamata Banerjee government by accusing it of dragging its feet on elections to 17 civic bodies. BJP leaders will meet governor M.K. Narayanan tomorrow to seek his intervention.

“The government has not responded to the state election commission’s letters on holding the polls on time. How can the government delay the elections without any valid reason? We want the governor to intervene,” said Rahul Sinha, the state BJP president.

“A study of the Lok Sabha poll results shows that the ruling party is in trouble in many municipal areas and the BJP is emerging as the main force there. Let the Congress and the CPM make it clear whether they want the polls on time or not,” he added.

Sinha said the government’s “plans to delay” the civic polls would not help Trinamul.

Hours later, CPM state secretary Biman Bose issued a statement, demanding that the civic polls be held on time. “The Left Front wants the civic polls to be held on time. The government should immediately consult the state election commission and finalise the date,” the statement said.

Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya said this evening that the civic polls should be held on time.

The government was supposed to give the go-ahead to the state election commission six months before the June 28 deadline to hold the civic polls.

A BJP delegation met state election commissioner Mira Pande yesterday and requested her to hold the polls on time.

The mood in the BJP is buoyant as its vote share has jumped to around 18 per cent from 6.14 per cent in 2009.

Among the civic bodies scheduled to go to polls this year are those in Asansol and Kulti, where the BJP seems to have the upper hand as the party nominee won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 70,000 votes. The BJP is ahead of Trinamul in 45 of the 50 wards of Asansol Municipal Corporation and 32 of the 35 wards of Kulti municipality. The BJP is leading in 15 of Islampur municipality’s 17 wards.

The BJP has decided to hit the streets against the state government more often on Bengal-centric issues. A similar surge in support for the BJP in Bengal in the late 90s had petered out in the absence of a sustained movement.