Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, on his second visit in two weeks’ time to West Bengal, engaged with Matuas, a Dalit refugee group with origins in Bangladesh and whose influence is spread over 50 assembly seats in the state.
Maurya, an OBC leader, not only connected with Matuas, but also spoke of the alleged neglect of Bangladeshi Hindu community, who he claimed were denied citizenship rights due to vote bank concerns, said BJP men accompanying Maurya on his Bengal campaign.
“As soon as we form our government in West Bengal, we will restore the dignity of Bangladeshi Hindus and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) could well help to ensure that they get their due. The BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership has been doing a series of things for the poor but the benefits aren’t reaching Bengal,” Maurya said while addressing a meeting of intellectuals in Uluberia assembly segment.
Maurya played up the Hindu factor with a reason. “In the 2018 Lok Sabha bypolls in Uluberia, the BJP had put up a Hindu candidate while TMC, Left and Congress had fielded Muslims. It stood second in the bypolls after TMC, pushing the Left behind and relegating the Congress to the fourth position,” BJP leaders said.
Engaging with such key vote banks as indeed playing the Hindu card is part of BJP’s plan in West Bengal for which a host of senior party leaders from UP are being drafted and with a reason.
In the 2017 UP polls, the BJP had targeted OBCs and Dalits in a big way to come to power in the most populous state after 14 years. Ever since, the BJP has continued to connect with OBCs and backwards to retain its political dominance.
A series of meetings featuring chief minister Yogi Adityanath too are being drafted.
“The BJP has drafted battle hardened leaders from UP to Bengal who have started mixing patriotism, Bengali culture and Hindu pride to create a potent mix, which they believe would help them form their first ever government in Bengal,” said Maluka Khanna, a political science professor from Lucknow University.
“There is great demand for Yogi Adityanath’s rallies in WB,” a senior BJP leader said.
Various cadres from UP, committed to the party and its ideology, including those who know Bengali language and culture would be regularly sent to Bengal to establish connection with the electorate there through road corner meetings, party leaders said.
“Even bigger leaders would be holding local meets, some of them even making door-to-door visits,” a BJP leader said, adding that close to the elections, a massive blitzkrieg would be unleashed.
Khanna said that the party’s growing vote share in Bengal has made the BJP more confident about Mission Bengal than it ever was.
“Since 2016 the BJP has been playing up the issue of incidents like clashes in Dhulagarh where it charged the TMC government of remaining quiet on the issue of atrocities on Hindus who it claimed were at the receiving end of clashes. In the 2016 assembly elections, the BJP improved its vote share to 10.3 per cent against 4.1 per cent votes it got in the 2011 polls. In the 2014 LS polls, the BJP got 17 per cent votes and won two seats too. In the 2019 LS polls the BJP won 40.3 per cent vote. So the party’s graph has been growing,” said Maluka Khanna, a professor of political science from Lucknow University (LU).