Bengal’s identity is central to both the BJP and Trinamool election manifestos for the West Bengal Assembly polls. Even as the ruling Trinamool Congress in its manifesto says “Protect Bengal’s heritage and pride, cast your vote for Trinamool Congress symbol”, the BJP has announced several initiatives and infra projects named after famous personalities of the state.
The BJP tried to connect with the Bengal’ identity by announcing projects such as an expressway project between Howrah and Siliguri named after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a prize named after Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the Satyajit Ray award in the name of the legendary filmmaker on the lines of the Oscars, a Sonar Bangla museum in Kolkata and compulsory use of Bangla language in official correspondence in the state.
For preserving Bengal’s culture, BJP promises to ensure that the Saraswati Puja and Durga Puja are celebrated across the state without any fear or restriction.
The saffron party also promises to allocate Rs 2,500 crores for the Gangasagar Mela held at Sagar Island and develop it as an international festival by encouraging cultural exchange and including it under the Centre’s ‘Prasad’ scheme.
The BJP believes that talking about Bengali identity will help in countering the Trinamool attack of being a party of outsiders with no sense of Bengali identity.
Taking a dig at the BJP manifesto released by Union home minister Amit Shah, Trinamool leader and Lok Sabha MP, Abhishek Banerjee tweeted, “Absurd how the tourist gang released their jumla-laden Manifesto for Bengal polls in the hands of a Gujarati. A party that cannot find sufficient candidates for all 294 seats in Bengal is now faltering to find local leadership for such key events.”
Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien tweeted, “A resident of Gujarat with a resident of Madhya Pradesh by his (right) side, releases a manifesto and then makes a full speech in Hindi to create a Shonar Bangla.”
Responding to O’Brien’s tweet, the West Bengal BJP tweeted, “The BJP under Prime Minister Modi promises and delivers. Don’t divide Bengal on the basis of binaries, don’t continue with your divisive politics. Why are you nervous? Because Khela Hobe is countered with Chakri Hobe.”
On the job front, the BJP promises to provide a job in each family of the state while the Trinamool is promising to reduce the unemployment rate by half by creating five lakh new jobs annually.
To woo women’s voters, the BJP promises women 33 per cent reservation in government jobs, free education to all girls from KG to PG classes, free health care, free public transport.
The BJP promises to give nearly Rs 3.72 lakh to a girl child (from her birth till marriage) of the SC, ST, OBC and economically weaker sections. This comprises a bond of Rs 50,000 on birth, Rs 22,000 in four installments till Class 12, Rs two lakh to unmarried girls who complete Class 12 and another Rs 1 lakh in a fixed deposit at the time of marriage which is more than the existing schemes of the Trinamool government’s Kanyashree and Rupashree.
Both the BJP and Trinamool promise to give reservation to Hindu OBCs. The BJP manifesto promises to give benefits of reservation to Mahishyas, Tillis, and other OBCs caste, the Trinamool talks about forming a special task force to examine and propose OBC status to all the communities that are not currently recognised as OBCs.
While talking about Bengal’s identity, the BJP did not forget its key issues such as CAA. Releasing the party manifesto, Shah said CAA will be implemented in the first cabinet meeting of the BJP government in West Bengal.
The BJP manifesto promises ‘citizenship’ to all the refugees and a refugee welfare scheme with provision for education, health and employment.