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25 Apr 2017

UP shows Shah the way in Bengal

Gita Mahali at her house on Monday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Siliguri, April 24: Amit Shah will arrive here tomorrow to replicate the social engineering drive he successfully did in Uttar Pradesh to help the BJP garner as many votes as possible in Mamata Banerjee's Bengal.
The BJP president will attend a meeting of booth-level BJP workers, have a lunch with a tribal family and visit four other homes of Rajbangshis and a Muslim, all at an otherwise nondescript locality called South Kotiajote in Naxalbari block.
"Our party president firmly believes in giving impetus to grassroots to build the organisation as well as develop the support base. During his three-day visit to the state, he will attend similar campaigns, starting from Siliguri. The exercise is a learning session for us and workers at the booth-level," Praveen Agarwal, the Siliguri (organisational) district secretary of BJP, said.
In Naxalbari, Shah will hold the booth-level meeting at the house of Sadhana Mondal, the sole BJP member of Naxalbari panchayat.
Gita Mahali, a tribal housewife whose husband is a painter, was busy cleaning her house this afternoon. Shah will have a lunch of rice, daal, and sabji at her home tomorrow. "We were surprised to hear that ' ek bahut bada neta' of the BJP will come to our place. We have decided to offer him whatever we have for lunch everyday," she said.
Karishma Khatun, a student who had just finished her masters, also sounded enthusiastic. "It is interesting to know that a leader like him will visit our house. We will offer him sharbat and some fruits and try to be a good host. We would like to listen from him," she said.
On Wednesday, Shah will hold a similar meeting and visit homes at Chetla under Mamata's Bhowanipore Assembly constituency in Calcutta. On Thursday, he will visit houses and hold a meeting at a booth under Rajarhat New Town Assembly seat.
The same strategy of assimilating votes by including people from different castes has worked for the BJP in UP. The BJP, under Shah's leadership, had taken the task of securing confidence of non-Yadav OBCs and non-Yadav Dalits by bringing them into the party and offering them candidature. The move posed problems for both the SP and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh elections.
"The strategy of managing different social segments, without upsetting the interest of any of the castes, brought the BJP success in UP. Now the party is focusing on Bengal and wants to secure the support of different castes and ethnic groups through consistent campaigns at booth levels. As the rural polls are held next year, the BJP has the option of fielding a variety of candidates representing diverse social strata in different tiers of the panchayat system to nullify the allegations of caste bias levelled by its political rivals," the observer said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SANDIP CHOWDHURY IN CALCUTTA

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