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Rush for BJP tickets

Sainthia, May 23: Less than three months ago, the BJP had struggled to find party workers to campaign for Birbhum Lok Sabha poll candidate Joy Banerjee. Now, the party is flooded with requests for nominations to contest a municipal poll in the district.

Sources in the party attributed the enthusiasm to the BJP’s good Lok Sabha poll performance in the Sainthia municipal wards and the “Narendra Modi wave”. Although the party lost the Birbhum seat, it got leads in 14 of the 16 wards of Sainthia municipality, which is scheduled to go to polls in July.

“When Joy Banerjee was declared the Birbhum candidate in March, we face difficulty in finding enough party workers to organise campaigns for him. Now, we are getting plenty of letters from local leaders and workers who want to contest the civic polls. We have received at least five letters from each ward,” said Kashinath Mondal, the only BJP councillor of Sainthia municipality.

Birbhum BJP chief Dudhkumar Mondal said the party would field candidates in all 16 wards. “In the last election, we could field candidates in only 10 wards. This time, we will field candidates in all 16. This is because of the Modi wave. We are in a position to choose candidates from a list.”

Months before the Lok Sabha polls, the state BJP headquarters in Calcutta had received many applications for tickets, unlike in the past when the party used to struggle to field candidates for Bengal’s 42 seats.

Three businessmen in Sainthia have agreed to donate land to set up a permanent party office in the town. The BJP now has a tin-roofed dilapidated accommodation.

In 2009, the Congress had won 12 of the 16 wards and formed the Sainthia municipality board. The Trinamul Congress, Forward block, CPM and the BJP had got one seat each. Six months ago, 14 councillors, including 11 of the Congress, switched over to Trinamul, giving the ruling party control of the civic body.

A local businessman who wants to field his daughter-in-law from ward 12 said: “I have spoken to district party leaders. I used to be a Trinamul supporter. Now, I think the time has come to join the BJP.”

A businessman who wants to donate land for the party office said he had become a “fan” of Modi and the BJP after the Lok Sabha poll results.

A district official said Sainthia was a “big distribution centre” for cement, iron rods, baby food, wheat, mustard, rice and pulses. The local railway station has a large goods shed where various types of trade items are unloaded.

Over 40 per cent of Sainthia’s 33,000 voters are traders. Non-Bengali voters make up 29 per cent of the electorate in the area. Both sections had largely sided with the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.

Santanu Roy, the Trinamul councillor of ward 7, said: “In the Lok Sabha polls, Trinamul led by 471 votes in my ward. But it was a tough fight because of the Modi wave.”