Bengal BJP finalising strategies for top-priority seats

Kolkata: With party chief Amit Shah setting a target of winning at least 23 Lok Sabha seats from West Bengal, the BJP state leadership is now finalising on “winnable constituencies” based on past elections for providing greater thrust during the campaign period.

“We have primarily identified 17-18 constituencies where we finished either second or third during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. We have improved our position further and emerged as the main challenger of the ruling Trinamool Congress in some of these constituencies during later by-polls,” a state BJP leader told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The seats thus identified are spread across northern and southern West Bengal, and cover both rural and urban pockets.

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“But these seats do not include Asansol and Darjeeling, which we had won five years back. We will have a different strategy for these two seats, which we are confident of retaining,” said the leader.

Singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo and Surinder Singh Ahluwalia – both Union Ministers – are MPs from Asansol and Darjeeling, respectively.

Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the eastern state, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been traditionally weak, the Trinamool had bagged 34 in the 2014 general elections. The Congress got four seats, while Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist triumphed in two constituencies.

As part of the party’s Look East Policy for the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has been pulling out all stops to better its show in Bengal, an erstwhile red citadel where the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front enjoyed power for 34 years at a stretch (1977-2011).

During a recent visit to the state, Shah appealed to the people to give his party more than 23 seats in the upcoming polls.

The preliminary list of constituencies where the saffron outfit is gearing up to lay focus during the canvassing period includes four from north Bengal – Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Malda North and Malda South – said another senior leader.

In the 2014 general elections, the BJP had finished second in Malda South and third in the other three constituencies. However, it jumped one place to second in Cooch Behar during a by-election in 2016.

In the southwestern part of the state, the seats on the BJP’s radar include Jhargram, Midnapore (in West Midnapore district), Bolpur and Birbhum (in Birbhum district) and Purulia. Speculation is rife that the party’s state President Dilip Ghosh would try out his electoral luck from Midnapore, that includes the segment Kharagpur Sadar which he now represents in the state assembly.

In the districts adjoining Kolkata, the BJP is eyeing a good show in Howrah, Hooghly, Diamond Harbour, Barrackpore, Dum Dum and Basirhat. Late BJP stalwart Tapan Sikdar was elected twice from Dum Dum in 1998 and 1999.

Last but not the least, the BJP is also betting big on Krishnanagar, which had elected its candidate Satyabrata Mookherjee once (in 1999). He went on to become a Union Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet.

“This does not mean we won’t lay stress on other seats. The campaign will be vigorous. As the campaign progresses, we will decide on more seats where we stand to do well,” the leader said.


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