Ravi Shankar Prasad launches all-out attack on Mamata and Nitish
BJP leader and former law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, baring the saffron party’s strategy of adopting an aggressive approach in the two Opposition-ruled eastern states to prevent a substantial loss of Lok Sabha seats.
Slamming Mamata a day after BJP leaders and cadres resorted to vandalism during their protest in Calcutta, Prasad appeared desperate to build a political momentum against the ruling Trinamul Congress in Bengal where the BJP machinery appears to have crumbled after the crushing defeat in the 2021 Assembly polls.
He said the party was proud of the courage of the Bengal BJP leaders and cadres, and parried questions on visuals of party cadres setting a police jeep on fire and vandalising roadside stalls. He said the Bengal unit of the party would reply to the charges and accused the state government of resorting to “brutality, torture and repression”.
“We are proud of our party leaders and workers. We want to greet them for their courage,” he said.
“Bengal under Mamataji has become a lawless and bankrupt state and I say this with full sense of responsibility. The Opposition is being denied the right to protest,” he added.
BJP insiders said the leadership was “very pleased” with Tuesday’s aggressive show by the party’s Bengal unit and had asked the state leaders to organise more such protests to highlight the “corruption” of the Trinamul Congress.
“The top leadership was very upset over the way the Bengal BJP was crumbling after the Assembly polls. The state leaders were clearly told to rise above factionalism and descend on the ground to ensure the party wins more than 18 seats in 2024,” a BJP leader said.
A sense of concern was palpable in the BJP, with assessments showing that if the party failed to pull up its socks, it would be an uphill task to retain the record 18 Lok Sabha seats that the party won in 2019. Concerned about the grim assessment, the BJP leadership stepped in to lend a helping hand to its demoralised Bengal unit by unleashing the Enforcement Directorate to expose the “corruption of the Trinamul”, party insiders said. “The pictures of mountains of cash seized during ED raids charged up the state leaders and cadres and it was evident in the spirited protest. Now we are hopeful of regaining the ground and support of the people of Bengal,” a party leader said.
Bengal and Bihar account for 82 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP had bagged 57 of the 82 seats — 18 of 42 in Bengal and 39 of 40 in Bihar along with former ally JDU. The fear of losing a big portion of these 57 seats has gripped the party after ally Nitish Kumar snapped ties and joined hands with the RJD-Congress-Left combine in Bihar.Party leaders said the blow from Nitish came while the BJP leadership was busy chalking out a strategy to arrest the slide in Bengal where MLAs, MPs and cadres were deserting the BJP after the defeat in the Assembly polls.That the two states still remain a concern for the BJP was evident in the way Prasad picked on Nitish after Mamata. He used an incident of firing in Begusarai to lash out at the Bihar chief minister.“Nitish babu, what has happened after the new friendship with the RJD?” Prasad said.
“Stop the pretence of being ‘sushasan babu’ (Mr good governance). Now you don’t have the courage to do anything,” he added.Prasad said a reign of terror was being unleashed in both Bengal and Bihar and declared that the BJP leaders and cadres were committed to fighting and winning the trust of the people.Going forward, BJP leaders said, more aggression would be exhibited in the two states since 82 Lok Sabha seats were at stake. Party managers said they couldn’t afford to lose a chunk of the seats they had won in the two states if the BJP wanted to get a majority on its own in 2024.