With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intensifying its political activities in a bid to unseat the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to organise 600 back-to-back rallies across the state from November 22 to take on the saffron brigade ahead of the 2021 assembly polls under the banner of ‘Save Bengal from the BJP’.
The rallies will cover all the 294 assembly seats, followed by leaflet distribution, public meetings and community radio campaigning about the ruling TMC’s achievements in multiple languages including Nepali, Santhali (in Ol Chiki script), Telugu, Bengali, English, Hindi, Rajbonshi, etc, to target various sections of society.
To start with, the party has decided to sound the poll bugle through the ‘Save Bengal from the BJP' rallies in West Midnapore, Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura. These districts are part of the Jangalmahal belt, a region dominated by tribal groups and scheduled caste people. In Bengal, the SC population is nearly 23.51 per cent and the ST population is 5.85 per cent.
Considering this sizable vote base, the ruling party has decided to kick off its canvassing from these four districts.
Each of the 294 assembly seats will have at least two TMC rallies starting from November 22. In the 2016 assembly polls, the Trinamool retained its majority in the legislative assembly by winning 211 seats, while in 2011 it won 184.
According to Election Commission's statistics, in 2016, the TMC got 44.9 per cent of the total votes polled, in comparison to 39 per cent in 2011 and 39.03 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP won only three. However, in the 2019 parliamentary polls, the BJP shocked the TMC by winning 18 of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats.
Data shows that from the 2011 assembly elections to the 2016 ones, the Left Front lost its vote share by 9.88 per cent and from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to the 2019 edition, its vote share further plummeted to nearly 16 per cent.
The Congress vote share from the 2011 to 2016 assembly polls increased from 8.91 per cent to 12.3 per cent, but it fell drastically in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections (9.6 %) while in the 2019 polls the party managed to secure only 5 per cent of votes.
In the 2016 assembly polls, the BJP’s vote share was 10.2 per cent and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections it went up to 40.3 per cent mainly because of Hindus (including Matuas and other refugees) gravitating towards the party.
However, after exponential growth in tribal-dominated constituencies during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP in recent months has lost its grip somewhat on Jangalmahal, observers say. Therefore, eyeing the 2021 assembly polls, the TMC is all set to keep the political temperature up and remobilise its workers through the 600 rallies.
During these rallies, the TMC will distribute leaflets in several languages to highlight the Mamata Banerjee government's achievements and "expose the divisive politics of the BJP".
“There will be separate leaflets on how the Citizenship Act is going to be disastrous for the people in Bengal. Besides the anti-people policies of the NDA government, we have elaborate plans to organise campaigns against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA),” a senior TMC MLA said.
On December 16, 2019, five days after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, the Bengal government took its first official step against the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) by staying the process of National Population Register (NPR) across the state.
The MLA said, “We will also focus on community radio services to explain why the BJP is not a good option in Bengal. There are many villages in our country including in Bengal where digital gap is a major concern and people hardly get access to the internet. Therefore, we have decided to engage community radio services to take government schemes to the farmers, students, skilled workers, self-help groups, housewives, those involved in animal husbandry, fisheries and elderly people.”