The BJP in West Bengal wants party president Amit Shah to contest the 2019 elections from Kolkata. "It will dramatically change the political atmosphere in the state," Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said. "If Mr Narendra Modi can contest from Puri, why not Mr Shah from Kolkata? Remember what happened in Uttar Pradesh after Mr Modi stood from Varanasi?"
The Trinamool Congress dismissed the "kite flying" by Mr Ghosh as attempts to "create hype" in Bengal. "An open challenge. Come and contest from any one of the 42 seats," sources in the party said.
There is nothing official about Mr Shah's candidature from Kolkata or Mr Modi's from Puri but, according to Mr Ghosh, party workers have expressed the desire and that has been conveyed to central 'karyakartas' who have visited Kolkata in recent weeks.
"I hope our message will be conveyed to Mr Shah. I am sure he will give it the most serious consideration. After all, Bengal is very important for the BJP in this election," he added.
Indeed, some months ago, Mr Shah set a target for the BJP in Bengal which currently has just two out of 42 Lok Sabha seats. Mr Shah said, minimum 50 per cent or 22 seats must be won.
With that in view, the BJP is hitting the campaign train in Bengal in the first week of December with three 'rath yatras' from different parts of the state that will congregate in Kolkata mid-January.
The 'rath yatras' will be flagged off from Tarapith in Birbhum district, Cooch Behar district and Sagar in South 24 Parganas district on the December 5, 7 and 9 respectively.
"No, they won't be raths exactly but tableaus of our (central) government's achievements and the failures of the Mamata Banerjee government," Mr Ghosh said.
"We are calling them 'save democracy yatras' because there is no democracy in the state. We have applied for police permission but have not heard back from them yet," he added.
The Trinamool Congress has dismissed BJP's claims about its increasing sphere of influence in the state. "In vikas, which is the NDA's big ticket (slogan), Mamata Banerjee wins hands down," said a Trinamool Congress leader, adding, "so the BJP is only trying to fan communal trouble in the state. It will not be allowed to."
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