The BJP will kick off its Bengal campaign for the general election with a rally in Calcutta on November 29 where Union home minister Amit Shah is expected to address a gathering of at least one lakh people.
The core themes of the rally are likely to be alleged corruption and suspected irregularities under the Trinamul regime in Bengal to counter chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s narrative accusing the BJP-led Centre of depriving Bengal's poor masses by freezing funds due to the state.
“If there is no change at the last minute, Amit Shahji will be in Calcutta on November 29. We want to make the event a mega show against Trinamul, as the rally is the beginning of a series of campaign rallies by our national leaders, in the run-up to next year’s Lok Sabha polls. That is why the party wants to bring a large number of people from all over the state,” said a senior BJP leader in Calcutta.
According to him, the BJP will organise a dozen of these “mega” rallies in the state, and 42 “semi-mega” rallies in each of the Lok Sabha seats here. Four of the 12 “mega” rallies will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah, and BJP national president J.P. Nadda.
Although the BJP leadership has been contemplating making the November 29 event a mega show in the city, the state administration had come in the way of holding the rally in front of Victoria House in Esplanade area. The BJP has decided to hold its Shah-led “mega” rally at the venue of Mamata’s annual July 21 event. Allegedly denied permission by police, the BJP on Monday moved Calcutta High Court seeking its intervention to hold the rally on November 29.
The administration told the court on Monday that the BJP would be allowed to hold Shah's rally at the crossing of Victoria House-Esplanade on November 29 but get certain guidelines to follow.
The lawyer appearing for Calcutta police claimed that they would need to make some arrangements at the rally site to facilitate the event. On the lawyer's request, the high court gave the police time till Wednesday to list the guidelines. The case came up for hearing before Justice Rajasekhar Mantha on Monday.
During the course of the hearing, Justice Mantha observed: "I want to know details why the police every time harass different parties when they seek permission to hold rallies. Everyone should be given the right to hold rallies anywhere."
The court, however, did not pass any written order during the day. A formal order will be passed on Wednesday.
The BJP had, ahead of its November 30, 2014 rally at the same venue, also led by Shah, faced the same problem. It was allowed by the high court to conduct the rally there.
That was where the BJP had introduced the slogan, “Bhaag Mamata, Bhaag (Run Mamata, Run)”.
“We will certainly move to the court this time, too. We have our earlier experience and the denial of permission by the Mamata Banerjee government will help us politically. We will not delay moving Calcutta High Court,” said a BJP leader.
The BJP’s November 29 rally assumes significance in Bengal politics now, as the ruling Trinamul’s pre-Puja attempts to pitch its narrative of deprivation against Modi and his government had met with a fair bit of success.
Mamata, in her Netaji Indoor Stadium meeting with the party’s rank and file on Thursday, is likely to announce instructions to better implement her plans for taking forward the movement — led solely by her nephew and Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee in September and October — in the campaign against the BJP focusing on Delhi’s alleged step-motherly treatment of Bengal.
A BJP leader in Calcutta said district leaders were given specific targets to bring people on November 29 from among those who have been deprived of benefits or pay under central schemes such as the MGNREGS and the Awas Yojana to underline that this deprivation stems from "Trinamul's corruption”.
“Our target is to bring at least five persons each from 70,000-odd booths. That is about 3.5 lakh people. We know we won’t actually be able to pull it off. But we are expecting at least one lakh people,” said the leader.