The crowd at the rally in Bolpur on Wednesday. Picture by Indrajit Roy
Bolpur, July 16: The BJP today chose a Muslim-dominated area in Bolpur for its first major rally since the Lok Sabha polls and paid tribute to “martyr” Sheikh Rahim who was murdered on June 7, a move being seen as an attempt to reach out to the community.
According to sources, the rally was attended by around 15,000 people, a strength that almost matched the turnout at Mamata Banerjee’s rally at the same venue on July 10.
“Around 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the people who attended the rally today belonged to the minority community,” a party insider said.
The stage, which was named Sheikh Rahim Mancha, had the BJP worker’s family seated on it along with BJP state president Rahul Sinha and party MP Babul Supriyo.
Rahim’s widow Hazera Biwi, daughters Shamina Khatun and Amina Biwi and niece Zinnat Biwi were introduced as “Shahid Parivar”, a word popularised by Mamata during her days in the Opposition.
“Sheikh Rahim amader pratham shahid (Sheikh Rahim is our first martyr). He is not just a martyr of the BJP but of Bengal. We will always stand by his family,” Sinha said.
Senior BJP leaders spoke to could not recall an instance in the recent past when a member from the minority community was paid a tribute by the party.
“The situation has changed. Rahim lost his life because he was our supporter. Our central leaders had visited his family. But today’s rally gave us an opportunity to reach out to the minorities in Bengal,” a senior BJP leader said.
“Around 30 per cent to 40 per cent of those who attended today’s rally were from the minority community. The message is clear,” a BJP leader in Birbhum said.
BJP leaders today dubbed the Birbhum rally the “biggest ever” in the district.