BJP President Amit Shah on Tuesday started his election campaign for this year’s parliamentary polls from West Bengal’s Malda district. His inaugural Bengal rally had taken place after a long-winded legal battle, which the BJP finally lost as the Supreme Court rejected the saffron party’s plea for rath yatra in the state.
The top court, however, said that the BJP could organise rallies in the state. His first planned rally in Malda later courted controversy as the party accused the state’s Trinamool government of not allowing Shah’s helicopter to land because of ongoing construction works.
Speaking at the rally on Tuesday, Shah promised to develop Bengal by allowing Hindus to worship Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja without any fear. He accused the government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of stopping Hindus from holding their religious festivals. He, however, did not give any evidence to support his astonishing claims. Durga Puja remains the most popular event in the annual calendar for Bengalis.
Shah’s speech largely revolved around seeking votes in the name of religion, a practice deemed unlawful under the Indian law.
Shah said that the Bengal’s Trinamool government was ‘killing democracy, not allowing Durga & Saraswati pooja, promoting infiltration and protecting political murderers.’
Do listen to what people of Bengal have to say about a government that is killing democracy, not allowing Durga & Saraswati pooja, promoting infiltration and protecting political murderers. pic.twitter.com/bicXvuQEdR
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) January 22, 2019
Then came his most controversial statement as he promised to give citizenship to ‘every Hindu Bangladeshi’ under the Citizenship Amendment Bill. He said, “I want to assure every Biddhist, Hindu and Christians to not worry. We will give citizenship to every Hindu Bangladeshi under the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Nobody will be ignored. Whether they are Buddhists, Sikhs or Christians. Those, who have come from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, this government by BJP’s Narendra Modi will give them citizenship.”
Shah excluding Muslims in his speech evoked angry reactions from journalists and academics, who slammed him for open bigotry. Journalist Sanjay K Jha wrote, “Deliberate exclusion of Muslims defines their vision. Hindus must be ashamed these narrow-minded, small people claim to be their representatives. Sorry Amit shah, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists will reject Sanghi bigotry.”
Academic Subir Sinha commented, “Such remarks by him and others in the BJP signal the start of Amit Shah’s 2019 campaign. They know development is a losing ticket for them, open bigotry might well work.”
One user Jessen reacted, “Amit Shah is the worst human ever to adore the political scene of this country. Nobody ever streamlined hate and bigotry in such a way which is now an open, mainstream political/public discourse in a country like India. Look at the pattern of events from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.”
Shah ended his speech by resorting to another ‘gimmick’ that has become a hallmark of his election speeches. He informed his audience that he was going to read out the list of schemes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last five years. Shah said that the list had over 120 schemes but the audience can start clapping midway through his recitation of the list if they wanted him to stop. He stopped after struggling to read the names of those schemes even though he was reading from a script. Shah then repeated his now repetitive act and said, “Oh brothers, I’ve counted only 13 and you got tired. There are 129 such schemes.”
As expected, this became a butt of jokes on social media with users mocking the BJP President for poor acting.
Wait for it 😂 pic.twitter.com/bMLxGUYNVZ
— Roshan Rai (@RoshanKrRai) January 22, 2019
User Roshan Rai, who shared the video also asked if Shah was auditioning for Gully Boy film. Others posted similar comments mocking the BJP President.
Side effects of steroids?
— Sasidharan Pazhoor (@inquestioner) January 23, 2019
After listening this speech some one reactions https://t.co/dirokT60dv
— Rajhance (@Rajhance2) January 23, 2019
Dimaag ki Batti jal gyi😃
— Sumit Singh (@sumitsingh734) January 23, 2019
The BJP has set its eyes on Bengal, desperately trying to make inroads in the state, which has now become a citadel of sorts for the Trinamool Congress.