BJP is more of a rural party in West Bengal than urban, the Kolkata seats are therefore a battle joined.
In the tightly poised 11 seats in Kolkata city where the Trinamool Congress has held ground in the past, the BJP is hoping to make headway this time around and one of the seats its hopes are pinned on is the ancestral home of the Tagore family, Jorasanko.
The area’s fame outside of Kolkata is its connection to the Tagore family, the Thakur Bari or mansion of the Tagore family, former home to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and is currently a museum. The office of the BJP candidate Meena Devi Purohit is, however, in a crowded area in a corner of a narrow lane, just below the incomplete Vivekananda Setu, a portion of which had crashed in March 2016, in the midst of the last Assembly polls. The tragic toll of that accident numbered 27 and injured scores of others, and the ill fated flyover remains incomplete.
“If elected I promise a solution to the flyover issue. I’ll make sure that either the flyover is completed or completely removed. The current situation cannot continue,” said Ms Purohit to The Hindu. She has been a corporator in Kolkata for nearly three decades and many civic issues of the area, like building better parking lots, rather than any civilisational ones dominate the flier she hands over as her pledges if elected. Both Ms Purohit and the TMC candidate Vivek Gupta are non-Bengalis fighting on the former stomping ground of the Tagore family. Mr Gupta, owner of the Hindi newspaper Sanmarg was earlier a Rajya Sabha MP from the TMC. The area itself is now dominated by trading communities from Rajasthan and labour from Bihar, as it is contiguous to Bara Bazaar, once the largest wholesale market in Asia. The three corporators from the area- Sunita Jhaveri, Vijay Ojha and Ms Purohit are all non Bengalis.
Ms Purohit therefore wears the accusation of the BJP being a “Bohorigato” or a party of outsiders very lightly. “We are a party founded by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who is a son of Bengal, how can we be outsiders,” she says. Her confidence also stems from the fact that in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Assembly segment showed a lead of 14,000 votes for the BJP.
“In 2011, even BJP voters gave support to TMC, as we wanted the Left to go. In 2016, Rahul Sinha lost by a moderate margin, as polling percentage was low here owing to the flyover collapse and people were grieving. But the 2019 General Elections showed that we could win the seat,” said Prabhat Jain, associated with Ms Purohit’s election office.
The TMC’s hold in the city’s 11 seats in Kolkata city is considered firm and the BJP’s own realistic assessment is that they are in the fight in only around 3-4 seats, including Jorasanko. Unlike in other States, BJP is more of a rural party in West Bengal than urban, the Kolkata seats are therefore a battle joined.