Babul Supriyo (left) and Rahul Sinha at the Birbhum rally. Picture by Indrajit Roy
Bolpur, July 16: The BJP today named the stage of its first major rally since the Lok Sabha polls in Birbhum after “martyr” Sheikh Rahim, party sources dubbing the move an attempt to reach out to the minority community.
According to sources, around 15,000 people attended the meeting, the figure almost matching 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 BJP source said.
The stage, which was named Sheikh Rahim Mancha, had the slain BJP worker’s family seated on it along with party state president Rahul Sinha and MP Babul Supriyo.
Rahim’s widow Hazera Biwi, daughters Shamina Khatun and Amina Biwi and niece Zinnat Biwi were introduced as the “shahid parivar” (martyr’s family).
“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.
A senior BJP leader said the political situation in Bengal had changed. “Rahim lost his life because he was our supporter. Our central leaders visited his family. Today’s rally gave us the opportunity to reach out to the minorities in Bengal,” he added.
The BJP’s efforts to reach out to the minority community in Birbhum, a district that has 30 per cent Muslims, coincided with the party’s attempts to emerge as the principal Opposition in Bengal riding on the back of an improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls. “Our message is clear,” the BJP leader said.
Later in the day, Sinha issued a statement condemning the promotion of Gyanwant Singh as DIG, Murshidabad. The IPS officer had been removed as deputy commissioner (headquarters) of Calcutta police in connection with the 2007 Rizwanur Rahman case.
BJP leaders today dubbed the Birbhum rally the “biggest ever” in the district. “The chief minister must have been told about the turnout,” Sinha said in Bolpur.
Asked about the turnout, Birbhum Trinamul president Anubrata Mondal said: “Shob jani (I know everything). A gathering of 6,000-7,000 people can hardly be called a rally. Mamatadi’s programme was attended by 2.5 lakh people.”
The wives of two masons feared kidnapped in Iraq today met BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya and sought his help in locating them.
Bhattacharya said he had forwarded the requests to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.