Kolkata: With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah declared on Wednesday that his party had already emerged as the second largest in West Bengal and the only opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Shah told a press conference in Kolkata that the BJP’s support base will continue to expand and that in the 2019 general election his party will win a majority of West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha constituencies. The BJP won only two seats in the 2014 general election but its vote share is on a steady upswing.
In West Bengal, the BJP will consolidate its support base on the strength of development initiatives of the centre, Shah said, while giving details of allocations made to the state under various schemes. However, the state was not being able to realize the full potential of these schemes because of the misrule of the TMC, he alleged.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee immediately hit back, saying West Bengal’s economy was growing faster than the national average, and that Shah’s criticism of the state was baseless. “They are jealous of our growth," she added.
To restore West Bengal’s lost glory, the BJP is the only option, Shah said.
Shah, however, sidestepped questions on cow slaughter in the context of West Bengal, where there are no restrictions on slaughter of cows and consumption of beef. The BJP will deal with the issue of cow slaughter in West Bengal only after it came to power in the state, he said.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, which ruled the state for 34 years till 2011, didn’t take kindly to Shah’s claim that the BJP is the second-most favoured party in the state already. CPM leader Mohd. Salim said it is the Trinamool Congress’s lone legislator in Manipur who recently lent support to the BJP to form the government in the northeastern state.
This legislator has not yet been expelled from the Trinamool Congress, and this person has been claiming that he lent support to the BJP on the instruction of his party’s leadership, Salim said. So what did the Trinamool Congress receive in return and is the BJP really looking to take on the Trinamool Congress, he asked, addressing a press conference.
In the recent bypoll for the Contai South assembly constituency, the BJP came second to the Trinamool Congress with a 31% vote share, while candidates of all other parties, including the Communist Party of India and the Congress, lost their deposits.