The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is taking its campaign to capture Bengal overseas by launching an NRI outreach programme.
The development comes close on the heels of the Election Commission (EC) informing the government that it was ready to extend the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) to voters abroad for elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry next year.
The Bengal BJP’s reach-out drive christened ‘NRI 4 Sonar Bangla’ however is not limited to getting the Bengali diaspora to vote for the party in the 2021 assembly elections. The party has envisaged a much larger role for them.
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Kalyan Chaubey, convenor of a four-member committee formed by the party for the purpose, told The Federal that they would like to utilise the services of the NRIs in creating a buzz for the party’s campaign and charting a “roadmap” for socio-economic changes.
“We will urge them to create awareness on social media and other platforms even if they cannot physically be present to put forward the party’s vision for Bengal. We will also take proposals from them for inclusion in our manifesto,” said Chaubey, a footballer-turned politician.
“We are not asking them to seek vote for the BJP. We will only urge them to share their opinion about the present state of affairs in Bengal and how things can be changed. They will also talk about nationalism and patriotism,” he added.
The team is guided by BJP’s overseas affairs department head Vijay Chauthaiwale, who was one of the main organisers of the “Howdy, Modi!” event in the United States last year.
“He is associated with our campaign as an adviser,” Chaubey said.
The four-member committee has already created a database of 2.5 lakh people from Bengal residing in various parts of the world. Soon the BJP’s team will start approaching them, seeking their help in narrative-building.
The idea is to use the social-standing of an NRI in his native place. “Relatives, friends and acquaintances often look up to the NRIs with pride and esteem and give more importance to their opinion. We want to utilise this goodwill of theirs,” explained another BJP leader who did not want to be named.
As per the party’s estimate one NRI could at least influence 10 voters back home.
To apprise the overseas citizens of Bengal of the current scenario in the state, the party has already prepared infographics and other campaign materials.
The impact of this campaign, the party leader said, would not be restricted to middle-class urban areas alone.
“Even from rural Bengal many have migrated to the Middle-East region and other countries. They will also be tapped as resource persons,” the party leader added.
Union home minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah has set a target of winning 200 out of 294 assembly seats in the state in 2021. To achieve the target the party has galvanised its largest ever election machinery in the state.
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The BJP is for the first time sniffing a victory in the state as it had cornered more than 40 per cent votes in the 2019 Lok sabha elections, winning 18 of the state’s 42 parliamentary seats. In terms of assembly segment the party was ahead in about 125 seats, just 22 short of majority mark in the assembly.