Kolkata: In India’s first parliamentary elections in 1951-52, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, one of the forebears of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won only three seats. One of them was in the erstwhile Midnapore district of West Bengal, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch his campaign for the 2019 general elections in the state on Monday.
Though one of Jana Sangh’s key founders, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, hailed from West Bengal and was one of the two winning candidates from the state in 1951-52, the BJP has struggled to get a toehold in the state ruled by the Left Front for 34 years. Only after Trinamool Congress came to power in 2011, the BJP witnessed significant electoral gains and has lately emerged as the main opposition party in the state.
In recent elections, the BJP made the most strident gains in backward districts such as West Midnapore, Jhargram, Purulia and Bankura that have nominal Muslim population.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Modi will address a rally—his first in the state ahead of next year’s polls—at the Midnapore College grounds. Sadly, it’s too small to accommodate everyone who turns up to hear him speak, say local BJP leaders.
“We are confident that the prime minister’s visit to Midnapore will substantially shore up our support base in this region," said Sayantan Basu, general secretary of BJP in West Bengal.