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BJP aims to steal Left’s visibility thunder
14-day agitation plan from today

Calcutta, June 22: Mamata Banerjee’s “visibility” advice to the Left has another taker — the BJP.

“Instead of the Left, we shall be visible everywhere across Bengal for a fortnight from tomorrow, much to Mamatadi’s worry,” a Bengal BJP vice-president said hours after a media conference in Calcutta where the party announced a series of movements to protest “lawlessness” and “attacks” on BJP workers in the state.

The BJP’s “Bangla banchao (Save Bengal)” agitation is aimed at upping the ante against the Trinamul government with an eye on establishing itself as the principal Opposition in the state, Bengal unit president Rahul Sinha said at the media conference at the party headquarters.

The movement will begin on the death anniversary of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh to which the BJP traces its ideological roots.

“We will begin the fortnight-long movement tomorrow with a padayatra from College Square to Rani Rashmoni Avenue to protest the prevailing lawlessness and terror in the state. In the districts later, we will organise sit-ins in front of police stations and offices of police superintendents,” Sinha said.

He said the purpose of the “sustained” movement was to send the message to Trinamul that the BJP “is determined to grab the principal Opposition’s space by upstaging the beleaguered Left and the faction-ridden Congress”.

“While the Left has been left out of Bengal, the Congress is gasping for breath. The time is ripe for us to further consolidate our organisation, particularly after our vote share in the Lok Sabha polls increased to 16.8 per cent from 6.5 per cent in the 2011 Assembly elections,” Sinha added.

The two BJP MPs from Bengal — Babul Supriyo and S.S. Ahluwalia — are scheduled to lead tomorrow’s padayatra along with the central deputy chief of the Bengal unit, Siddharth Nath Singh.

The BJP’s vow to be “visible” comes a week after the chief minister told a Left Front delegation to organise movements and keep the combine’s house in order to stave off an onslaught by Narendra Modi’s party. “Please do movements, be visible…. That’s the main job for us politicians,” Mamata had told the Left team at Nabanna.

Four days later, leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPM had sprung the visibility factor on Mamata by staging two walkouts in the Assembly.

A Trinamul general secretary did not attach any importance to the BJP’s agitation plans. “Every political party is free to launch movements in a democratic set-up. But people won’t buy the BJP’s false propaganda that lawlessness and terror are prevailing in the state,” he said.

“The BJP should not forget that we got the people’s mandate in the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal. We won 34 of the state’s 42 seats and increased our tally from 19 in the 2009 general election,” the Trinamul leader added.

Cong switch

Pradip Ghosh, a Congress veteran from central Calcutta, formally joined the BJP with over 200 followers today.

Ghosh, who was the central Calcutta district Congress president and is said to be close to Somen Mitra, came to the BJP headquarters in a procession around 3.30pm.

“I joined the BJP not to get any post in the organisation. My switch is aimed at ousting Trinamul from power. The ruling party has unleashed terror across Bengal,” he said.

However, Congress sources said Ghosh defected to the BJP “because of his strained relations” with state unit president Adhir Chowdhury. They said Ghosh had got involved in an altercation with Chowdhury during a meeting at the Bengal Congress headquarters on June 2.

AIIMS campaign

The BJP will campaign across north Bengal for an AIIMS-like hospital in the region, taking up an issue assiduously pursued by the Congress.

The BJP, which held a meeting of its extended district committee today, did not comment on the possibility of an AIIMS-like hospital coming up at Kalyani, Nadia. Nor did the BJP specifically mention that it wanted the hospital in North Dinajpur’s Raiganj, for which former Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi had campaigned for a long time.

“We have decided to hold talks with our leaders in other north Bengal districts so that we can together start the movement to demand an AIIMS-like facility in north Bengal,” a senior member of the Darjeeling district BJP said.

Although according to the initial plan the hospital was supposed to come up in Raiganj, the Trinamul government is in favour of building it in Kalyani, where the administration has land.