With just months to go for the assembly elections, what do you make of the situation in West Bengal?
The Trinamool Congress has lost confidence. The party is finding it difficult to keep its house in order. People have lost confidence in Mamata Banerjee.
Do you feel a wave in your favour?
Yes, it is there across the state, but it is dormant in some parts. Like in Birbhum and even in Kolkata, where we had lacked organisation till recently. But we are working hard and have almost overcome the hindrances.
So Birbhum and Kolkata are your problem areas?
No longer. Look at the response to [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah’s roadshow at Santiniketan. I [have not been able to spend] much time in Kolkata. In Birbhum, the TMC leaders are more violent. So, it took time for us to get a grip [there]. But now, things are changing as I am giving more time to these places. Look how our party men were attacked in Kolkata. This means the TMC is alarmed.
Who do you think will swing the votes in your favour? Any specific community?
I think the major boost would be from women who are coming out in large numbers. Also, urban people have been influenced by the election result in Bihar, which showed that the BJP is the only alternative.
Why would women vote for you?
That is because, in urban areas, the Modi government’s [schemes like] free ration, gas distribution and direct money transfer are paying dividends.
But Kolkata has not accepted the BJP’s ideology in the past.
My [small] tea-meetings [have turned into] political rallies. People are forcing me to ride horses in Kolkata.
Even so, do you believe Kolkata will accept the BJP?
Kolkata was a fortress for the Jana Sangh during [the time of] Syama Prasad Mookerjee. He received a huge mandate here before and after independence.
But he did not have a strong organisation.
It takes time. Do not forget that Dr Mookerjee fought against a man like [Jawaharlal] Nehru.
So the BJP is better organised today?
Even Mamata Banerjee did not have [a strong] organisation despite being a mass leader. In 2004, she won one Lok Sabha seat. But, in 2011, she came to power. We all know how she [did that]. Organisation can be strong only if you work hard. In 2019, we bagged 2.3 crore votes [in the Lok Sabha elections] while Mamata won 2.47 crore. This time we will cross three crore and she will go below two crore.
Does that mean you will get more than 200 seats?
Yes. We are working on that.
That is easier said than done.
Not at all. In the 1980s, we had 4 per cent of the votes; in the 1990s, this was 10 per cent. In 2014, we reached 17 per cent. After I took charge as state party president, we crossed 35 per cent in the 2018 panchayat elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we crossed 40 per cent. So, you can see the trajectory.
Why do you think the BJP is becoming more popular in Bengal?
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