In its onward electoral romp through north India in the past four years, the BJP was reduced to a bit player in only one politically significant state—West Bengal. It is, avowedly, one of the final frontiers for the party, and its leaders and cadre are working sedulously to increase their once insignificant footprint in the state. The modus operandi is a mix of the expected and the unusual.
“In my life as a voter in Bengal I have never seen so much emphasis on religious issues as now,” says Pujari Das, a Calcutta construction worker in his 50s, who hails from Murshidabad district’s Domkol, which is one of the seven West Bengal municipalities to go to the polls between May 14 and 19. Das, who claims never to have missed the opportunity to exercise his franchise, will go back as usual to cast his vote. But he finds it extremely ‘suspicious’ that the BJP has fielded eight Muslim candidates in his constituency. “Domkol is, of course, a predominantly Muslim area (over 80 per cent of the population), but it seems that this move, from a ‘pro-Hindu’ party, is an attempt at playing up the religious divide. As a Hindu of that area, this is the first time that I am in a dilemma about who to vote for.”