After Durga Puja, BJP organises Laxmi Puja in Bengal

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Kolkata, Oct 30 (PTI) After organising a Durga Puja for the first time in West Bengal, the BJP on Friday performed its maiden Laxmi Puja in an attempt to reach out to the people of the state ahead of next year's assembly elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed the people of the state while inaugurating the BJP's Durga Puja at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre in Salt Lake area on the eastern fringes of Kolkata on Maha Shashti on October 22.

'As we had organised Durga Puja this year, we decided to perform Laxmi Puja too. There is a tradition of organising Laxmi Puja in a marquee where Durga Puja was performed,' BJP state vice-president Pratap Banerjee said.

He said the rituals were performed by the activists of the Mahila Morcha, the women's wing of the party.

'The COVID-19 protocol and social distancing norms were adhered to,' Banerjee said.

Mahila Morcha activists clad in traditional Bengali attire were seen offering 'bhog' to the goddess.

The BJP's decision to organise Laxmi Puja is an attempt to reach out to the Bengali masses and shed its 'party from the Hindi heartland' tag, party sources said.

The Trinamool Congress, however, criticised the BJP for trying to 'politicise' Laxmi Puja.

'Laxmi Puja is organised in every household but no political party performs it. The BJP is trying to politicise a religious event,' TMC MP Saugata Roy said.

After having a limited presence in the politically polarised state for decades, the BJP has emerged as the main rival to the ruling TMC, winning 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the 2019 general elections.

With the BJP's strength increasing manifold in the state in the last few years, where it has never been in power, party leaders have exuded confidence that it will end Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's 10-year rule in the assembly elections due in April-May next year. PTI PNT ACD ACD