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24 Apr 2017

Parties gear up for Didi, Shah trips... Mamata Banerjee and Amit Shah visits North Bengal

AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Siliguri, April 23: Trinamul and BJP leaders in north Bengal are gearing up to make the best use of the next few days when Mamata Banerjee and Amit Shah will visit the region.
While the Bengal chief minister will arrive here tomorrow on a five-day official tour of Cooch Behar and Alipurduar, the BJP national president will reach Siliguri on Tuesday for a one-day trip.
Shah is scheduled to hold a meeting with BJP workers of a booth in Naxalbari block, visit five households and apprise them of the party's programmes. Later in the evening, he is supposed to attend an intellectuals' meet at the indoor stadium here.
Observers said the BJP's decision to choose Siliguri, under Darjeeling district, for the party chief's programme was significant.
"Darjeeling is the first parliamentary seat the BJP had won in Bengal in 2009. It is the only district where Trinamul has not been able to make much headway as far as the elections are concerned. Then there is the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (a BJP ally) which is preparing to take on Trinamul in the civic polls. All these indicate how important the visit is," an observer said.
According to BJP sources, the party, in its attempt to pit itself as the principal opponent of Trinamul, is focusing on "existing pockets" or areas where it has consolidated a substantial support base. One such area is the Darjeeling district, where the BJP has the Morcha as its ally.
Some other such pockets in north Bengal are in the districts of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Malda.
The observers said Mamata, too, had been focusing on these areas to stop the BJP from gaining strength.
On one hand, Mamata has put consistent efforts to stop the Morcha in its tracks and Trinamul leaders have gone all out to secure a majority in hill municipalities. On the other hand, the chief minister has announced benefits under government schemes in areas where the BJP is steadily increasing its support base.
"One of the factions of the Rajbangshis demanding a Cooch Behar state has allied with the BJP. We have realised that the grievances of the Rajbangshis need to be addressed to win their support. So, the state has announced that it would recognise the Rajbangshi language," a Trinamul leader in Cooch Behar said.
Trinamul leaders refused to give much attention to Shah's visit.
"Leaders of any political party can hold programmes anywhere in the state. But people of Bengal will never pay heed to the BJP. We don't think such visits would have any effect on the electorate of Siliguri and surrounding areas," said Gautam Deb, the Darjeeling district Trinamul president.
State BJP leaders are enthusiastic about the trip.
Pratap Banerjee, a BJP general secretary and in charge of party affairs in north Bengal, said: "Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul are fast losing base in north Bengal. She has become totally directionless and making desperate attempts to retain mass base through repeated visits to Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Darjeeling and Siliguri."

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