BJP to roll out rath yatras in Bengal’s religious hubs to strengthen vote bank

The campaign known as Paribartan Yatra is being launched to reach more voters, especially when exit polls have predicted that the saffron party would be barely able to muster 100-odd seats in the 294-member Assembly  

The BJP has taken out rath yatras across several districts of West Bengal.

The BJP has decided to fall back on its time-tested campaign strategy of rolling out ‘rath yatras’ in West Bengal to mobilise greater support.

The party felt the need to give a further push to its campaign as its internal assessment as well as opinion polls indicates it has not reached the position to dethrone the Trinamool Congress in the ensuing assembly polls.

The BJP would not get more than 120 seats in the best-case scenario as per its internal assessment, said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

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A recent opinion poll of ABP News and CVoter projected TMC to win 154 seats in the 294-member assembly.

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The BJP will fall way short of the magic figure of 148 bagging 102 seats, as per the opinion poll.

Some other local online portals and YouTube channels even indicated that the BJP would not cross three figure-mark.

The silver lining for the BJP is that the momentum is in its favour, the party leader said. “We now need to give a decisive push to our campaign. The rath yatras will exactly do that,” she said.

As per the programmes prepared by the saffron party, first of its chariots will roll out from Nadia district on February 6.

BJP national president JP Nadda will flag off the programme christened Paribartan Yatra (journey for change) at the district’s temple town of Nabadwip, the birth place of 15th century Vaishnavite saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Crisscrossing parts of Nadia and Murshidabad districts, the yatra will culminate at Barrackpore in North24 Parganas district.

Two more yatras will be flagged off on February 8 at Cooch Behar (in Cooch Behar district) and Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district.

The yatra that will begin at Cooch Behar will end at Malda after travelling through various places in North Bengal. Senior BJP leader Amit Shah is expected to launch this phase of the yatra.

The yatra from Kakdwip will terminate at Kolkata after travelling through various places in South 24 Parganas district.

On February 9 two more yatras will commence – Jhargram to Belur and Tarapith to Purulia.

The BJP’s plan however faced a legal challenge on Wednesday with the filing of public interest litigation (PIL) at the Calcutta high court.

Kolkata based lawyer Ramaprasad Roy moved the court against the yatra citing the possibility of law-and-order disruption. The PIL is likely to be heard on Thursday.

The BJP state vice president Pratap Banerjee in a letter seeking permission for the yatra from the chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said each phase of the journey would take 20-25 days to complete.

The state government, however, refused to give any permission centrally to the party and instead asked it to take consent of the local district authorities.

The state government had denied permission to the BJP to take out similar yatras ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections citing possibility of law-and order disruption.

That the BJP would try to whip up Hindu sentiment with its proposed yatras is clear from the importance state’s major Hindu pilgrimage centres are given.

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The programme will be launched from Nabadwip, which is adjacent to Mayapur, the headquarters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

In Belur, where one of the yatras will culminate, headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, is located.

Another of the yatras will begin at Tarapith, one of the 51 Shakti Piths and an important holy place of Shaktism.

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