Ahead of Assembly Poll, Modi Reaches Out to Bengal With Durga Puja Message

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The festival has offered the prime minister the best chance of public relations in Bengal before election. — PTI File photo

PM’s speech was televised live at over 78,000 polling booths across the state’s 294 assembly constituencies as BJP plans to conduct membership drive in Durga Puja pandals.

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – With Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating his party’s first-ever Durga Puja pandal at Kolkata’s Salt Lake through video-conferencing from Delhi on Thursday, the Bharatiya Janata Party in a way launched its campaign for state’s Assembly election due in the next six months.

The BJP had made elaborate arrangements for live viewing of his virtual address in which he invoked Goddess Durga and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to women’s empowerment and safety.

Besides the event venue at Salt Lake, Modi’s speech was streamed live across 10 selected pandals spread across districts. The event was televised live at over 78,000 polling booths across the state’s 294 assembly constituencies.

According to press reports, the party plans to conduct membership drive in Durga Puja pandals. Stalls have also been created to promote the policies and achievements of the central government.

Durga Puja, being the biggest festival for Bengalis, plays a special role in the state’s politics. This year, the BJP is seeking to make full use of this event as it has come just months away from Assembly election. The party is leading an aggressive campaign to grab power in West Bengal. During 2019 general elections the BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, an achievement that gives the party hope of unseating Mamata Banerjee who is ruling for the last 10 years.

The festival has offered the prime minister the best chance of public relations before election. Modi began his speech with puja greetings and appealed to the people to adhere to social distancing norms (do gaz ki duri) and wear face masks while taking part in the festivities. “There is so much power in the devotion to Goddess Durga here that it seems I am not in Delhi but amongst you in Bengal”, he said.

He used the occasion to highlight development schemes of his government for the people of West Bengal. “About 90 lakh poor women have been given free gas connections under the Ujjwala scheme. Bank accounts of about four crore poor of Bengal have been opened through Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission Scheme, clean piped water will be delivered to about 4 lakh households,” he said. Listing out various developmental projects for the state, Modi said, Rs 8,500 crore has been approved for Kolkatas East-West Metro project.

Modi also highlighted his government’s programmes for the empowerment of women and listed Jan Dhan scheme, Mudra Yojana, Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao initiative, permanent commission to women in the armed forces and extending maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks.

He touched upon women safety and said anti-rape laws were made more stringent to include death penalty. The prime minister’s remark came in the backdrop of a string of incidents of rape and murder of women, including the Hathras incident that shocked the nation and triggered outrage against the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.

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