BJP president Amit Shah’s three-day tour to West Bengal assumes much political significance. It is evident in editorials of the leading dailies in the state. All the editorial pieces termed the visit as a perfect ‘duel’ between Shah and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Anandabazar Patrika has termed Shah’s visit a ‘symbolic’ one. An editorial piece in Anandabazar Patrika states that aftermath of Mamata Banerjee’s resounding victories in 2011 and 2016 Assembly elections, opposition’s voice has mellowed. Without divulging into reasons behind it, the article says Amit Shah and his party may attain the status of principal opposition. It also says if opposition’s voice gets louder and stronger, it will augur well for democracy.
Another daily Ei Samay says that the ongoing visit of Amit Shah has transformed West Bengal into a political battlefield. The article predicts that BJP has all the prospects to become the main opposition party replacing the Left. It also states that with the relevance of CPIM waning steadily, it will be BJP who will be challenging ruling TMC. The daily says that the tour and subsequent war of words between Shah and CM Banerjee is just the ‘beginning’ before the all important 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
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Across all newspapers, Shah’s visit is getting maximum coverage with news channels holding several debates whether BJP can really become a force to be reckoned with in Bengal.
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A political slugfest has erupted over Shah’s visit and his attack against CM Banerjee and ruling TMC. Shah had claimed that the Centre offered enough financial assistance to West Bengal but there was no development in the state, and asked the Mamata Banerjee government to answer where the money has gone. Hitting out at the Trinamool Congress over Narada and Sarada scams, Shah said he is worried about the development and progress of West Bengal. “You all know about issues like Narada, Sarada scandals and law and order problems. But there remains another issue -where has the fund allocated to the state by the Centre gone?” he asked, as per a PTI report.
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“While the 13th Finance Commission had allocated Rs 1,3,585 crore to Bengal in five years, you will be happy to note the Narendra Modi government gave Rs 2,82,942 crore to Bengal. Where has this money gone?” he asked the crowd at a ‘Vikas Sabha’ of the party. “There has been no development in the state — no roads, poor electrification in rural areas. Can Mamataji tell the people of the state where the money went,” Shah said.
He also took a swipe at Banerjee for protesting demonetisation and said, “While the entire world has been praising the note ban, only Didi (Mamata) was crying hoarse.” The BJP president exhorted the people of Bengal to give his party a chance “since you have already tried the the Congress, the Left and the TMC”.
CM Banerjee promptly hit back, saying that BJP has been running a malicious campaign against her government. She made the allegation soon after BJP president Amit Shah attributed the state’s alleged poverty and backwardness to what he described as “corrupt policies of Trinamool Congress.” Banerjee said the BJP was circulating wrong information to “demean the performance of her government” only to gain political mileage. Compared to other states, West Bengal is far ahead in many sectors, including the agriculture and industry. But wrong statistics are being presented by the top BJP leaders to demean the performance of my government,” she said at a programme. “If they want to bite us, we shall uproot their teeth. It’s not my habit to speak rubbish. I speak less, work more,” she said, according to a PTI report.