Still firmly in campaign mode – there are still five rounds of polling left in Bengal – Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday had lunch at the house of a rickshaw puller in Domjur in Howrah district.
He was joined by Rajib Banerjee, the BJP’s candidate for the Domjur seat that votes on April 10. Mr Banerjee, the former Bengal Forests Minister, was one of several high-profile figures to cross over from the Trinamool in recent weeks and months, following the controversial switch of Suvendu Adhikari.
“I visited only one gram panchayat but, with the enthusiasm I saw, I am confident that Rajib Banerjee will win with a majority,” Mr Shah was quoted by news agency ANI, adding, “Her (Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) frustration can be seen in her speeches and behaviour”.
Visuals shared by ANI show Mr Shah sitting cross-legged on the floor, with a small cloth-covered wooden table holding a plate of food – some rice, dal, vegetables and assorted side-dishes.
The walls around Mr Shah are covered with colourful, floor-length drapes.
Domjur: Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah has lunch at the residence of a rickshaw puller who is also a BJP supporter. Rajib Banerjee, party’s candidate from the constituency also present. #WestBengalpic.twitter.com/het96CYWnz
— ANI (@ANI) April 7, 2021
Lunch was after a roadshow that made its way through the town’s narrow streets with a large crowd – despite concerns over a spike in Covid cases – in attendance.
Mr Shah and Mr Banerjee stood atop a lorry and, according to a video shared online by ANI, threw flower petals at people waving party flags and cutouts of himself and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
— ANI (@ANI) April 7, 2021
Mr Shah also held a roadshow in Singur – the epicentre of the anti-land acquisition movement that catapulted Ms Banerjee to power in 2011. The Home Minister’s visit was days after one by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Shah promised rapid industrialisation if BJP were to be voted to power.
“We will develop the region by setting up industries and a Rs 500 crore intervention fund has been announced for potatoes, for which the area is known, in our Sankalp Patra (manifesto),” he said.
Three of Bengal’s eight poll phases have been completed.
The election campaign – a straight fight between Ms Banerjee’s ruling Trinamool and the opposition BJP – has been vitriolic, with corruption claims and personal attacks freely traded by both sides. The two have also accused each other of manipulating voters and polling booths, and sponsoring violence.
“They are beating and torturing people… saying ”BJP ko vote do” (vote for the BJP),” she said, referring to claims Sujata Mondol – a Trinamool candidate from the third phase – was attacked.
Mr Shah’s lunch visit today was a repeat of his visits to the home of a “Baul” singer (sufi genre folk music of Bengal) in Santiniketan, and a farmer in Paschim Medinipur district in December last year.
In November he had lunch at the residence of a tribal BJP worker in Bankura, and the house of a member of the Matua community – whose votes could be crucial – in North 24 Parganas.
Bengal has four more voting days – April 10, 17, 22, 26 and 29 – before votes are counted on May 2.
With input from ANI