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2019 Lok Sabha elections: Amit Shah sets 28% vote share target for BJP’s West Bengal unit

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-09-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: On the first day of his three-day tour of West Bengal, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah set a modest vote share target for his party leaders in the state: 28% in the 2019 general election.

He asked BJP leaders in the state to secure 15 million votes, which translates to around 28% of votes cast in the 2016 assembly election, according to local BJP leaders, who asked not to be identified.

Shah spent hours hearing local leaders in Kolkata on Monday in what is his second visit to the city in less than six months. During the previous one in April, he kicked off a vistarak or expansion programme in the state, under which active party workers were asked to reach out to at least five households in each of the state’s 77,000 polling booths.

The Jansangh started with a handful of people, and now the BJP is the biggest political party in the world, Shah told the gathering, according to local leaders. He himself was not available for comments.

Some four million people in the state have pledged support to the BJP as members, according to the Bengal unit of the party and Shah asked local leaders to engage them in regular party activities.

But Shah is not impressed with the progress of the vistarak programme, though the local leadership claimed to have already covered more than 50% of the state’s 77,000 polling booths, according to leaders who attended Monday’s day-long brainstorming.

The target set by Shah appears to be “quite modest”, said a Kolkata-based election analyst who did not wish to be identified. In the 2014 general election, the BJP’s vote share was 16.8%. But a lot has changed since, and the BJP is now the only “meaningful” opposition to the Trinamool Congress, the analyst said.

In a two-way contest between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, a 28% vote share would result in few or no seats at all. The state has 42 Lok Sabha seats, of which the Trinamool Congress has 34 and the BJP two.

Shah on Monday gave a patient hearing to local BJP leaders complaining about party workers being harassed by the ruling Trinamool Congress. He also heard a proposal that the centre should immediately intervene to resolve the political crisis in Darjeeling over the demand for Gorkhaland, but refused to commit anything.

“He gave us a hearing, but he wasn’t keen on hearing complaints about the Trinamool Congress harassing our workers,” said another local leader, who, too, asked not to be named. “He was keen on understanding if we ourselves are becoming more resistant.”

The party’s state president Dilip Ghosh said Shah had prepared a “formula” to take on the Trinamool Congress, and had asked party leaders to resist such attacks.

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