Seven decades after the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh Shyama Prasad Mookerjee represented the Calcutta South East Lok Sabha constituency, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is engaged in a vigorous battle to preserve his ideological legacy by seeking to win the assembly constituencies that were part of the seat the party ideologue represented.
The BJP appears determined to contest assembly seats in Kolkata and its surroundings with renewed vigour and regain the glory that came with Jan Sangh winning the seat in the country's first Lok Sabha election.
A senior BJP leader said Bhawpore is the place where Syama Prasad Mookerjee settled down and Rashbehari has a famous Kalighat temple, a place of faith for Hindus. He said both the seats hold special significance for the party.
He said the party intends to win all seats in the state capital region but is giving special focus to Bhabpur and Rashbehari constituencies apart from other assembly seats that would have been part of Calcutta South East. These include Behala Purba, Behala Paschim, Kolkata Port and Ballygunge.
Rudrl Ghosh, BJP candidate from Bhabpur, said that Shyama Prasad Mookerjee's house is in Bhabpur and he was not just the founder of Jan Sangh but an ideologue. "We have to free that thought from the reign of others. It is not okay to have that thought reigned in by other political parties. Thus this fight has to be won to give Mookerjee his due," he said.
Rashbehari assembly, which has Kalighat temple, has found a mention in the speeches of almost all top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Local BJP leaders have referred to "restrictions on Durga Puja immersion" in 2017 imposed by the Trinamool Congress government, which were later lifted by Calcutta High Court.
The court had allowed immersion on all days including Muharram day till 12 am.
The BJP leaders are also laying stress on the party's pitch on nationalism.
The party has fielded Lt General (retired) Subrata Saha, who has given a lot of push to domestic defence manufacturing. Lt Gen Saha was responsible for perspective planning, force modernization and capability development. A former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, he created the Army Design Bureau in 2016. Post-retirement, he was the Founding Director-General of the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).
"Saha will do surgical strike on Trinamool (TMC) goons," said Vijaya Rahatkar, a BJP national secretary, while accompanying Lt Gen (retd) Saha in his campaign.
Lt Gen (retired) Saha has also served as GOC of Srinagar-based 15 Corps.
"When they see son of soil risen to a position, they take pride. They think our son has served the nation and now give him an opportunity. Youngsters are keen to take selfies. Probably they don't see someone from an army background every day," he said during his door-to-door campaign.
He is also laying stress on basic facilities like education and health services.
"There is Adiganga behind Kalighat which is choked with garbage. All of us are culturally associated with Adiganga," he said.
Indrajeet Khatik, vice president of BJP's South Kolkata unit, said that restrictions on Durga Puja immersion had not gone down well with people.
"It's an issue in Rashbehari. We will take back our Mookerjee's Bhabpur from Mamata," he said.
TMC supporters also express confidence of the victory of their candidate Debashish Kumar as they raise slogans like "Delhi Bohiragoto Door Hati Door Hati, Delhi Bohiragoto vote debe na debe na" (remove outsiders, don't give vote to outsiders).
Kumar said that BJP's campaign will not work.
"We do not have to fight Pakistan here. We are fighting for development. Results on May 2 will give a befitting reply to BJP," Kumar said while campaigning in the New Alipore area.
Polling for the fifth phase of the West Bengal elections will be held on April 17.
A total of 319 candidates, including 39 women, are in the fray in 45 constituencies across six districts - Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and Purba Bardhaman. Counting of votes will take place on May 2.
( With inputs from ANI )
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