Battleground Bengal: How Modi Altered The Course Of Ongoing Election Campaign From Sunday’s Rally In Kolkata

Battleground Bengal: How Modi Altered The Course Of Ongoing Election Campaign From Sunday’s Rally In KolkataPrime Minister Modi demolishes poll planks of Trinamool at the Kolkata rally. (Facebook)
Snapshot
  • In his 70-minute speech, apart from working the crowds, puncturing Mamata Banerjee’s claims and providing catchy slogans, Modi effectively took the air out of the Trinamool’s sails by demolishing its main campaign planks.

More than the record crowd at the Brigade Parade Grounds in Kolkata on Sunday, it was the powerful oratory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has changed the discourse of the ongoing electoral campaign in Bengal.

In two deft and devastating blows, Modi punctured the primary poll planks of the Trinamool.

The Trinamool has been labelling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a ‘party of outsiders’ and has been projecting Mamata Banerjee as Banglar Meye (Bengal’s daughter).

Also, the Trinamool’s khela hobe (game is on) slogan and campaign song which has a very ominous threatening tone and was being used extensively to enthuse that party’s cadres, was completely deflated by Modi.

The ‘Outsider’ Tag

Modi reminded the people of Bengal that the Congress was formed by a British civil service officer (Allan Octavian Hume). “The Trinamool shares the same gotra as the Congress which was founded by a foreigner. They (the Trinamool’s founders) left the Congress for their own selfish reasons, driven by their blind lust for power,” said Modi.

And, to cheers, he declared Trinamool as a party birthed by an ‘outsider’.

The ideologues of the Left, which ruled Bengal for 34 long years, were all foreigners, said Modi, while taking the names of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (who founded the communist movement).

Modi asserted that parties formed by foreigners or based on foreign ideologies can hardly be called indigenous to Bengal.

Instead, he argued, it was the BJP which had Bengal in its DNA. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which was the BJP’s predecessor, was founded by Banglar Meye.

“The BJP was born in Bengal, BJP is intrinsic to Bengal and its culture and Bengal is present in the BJP’s DNA. We are not outsiders to Bengal, the rest of the parties are,” said Modi.

Bangla Nijer Meyeke Chai (Bengal wants its own daughter)

Modi, while putting out the list of charges against Mamata Banerjee and her party, took a quick look at veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the BJP on Sunday, and called him Banglar chele (Bengal’s son).

Modi then dwelt shortly on the actor, saying that Chakraborty’s life was an inspiring story of struggle against many odds.

Later on in his speech, Modi once again referred to Mamata Banerjee projecting herself as Banglar Meye. “Arre Didi, you are Bharat ki beti,” he said to loud and mocking laughter from the crowds.

“Having betrayed her Ma, maati, manush slogan, she has come up with a new slogan. But this is not going to fool the people,” said Modi, before he went on, in his signature style, to make fun of Didi, much to the delight of the crowds.

Referring to Mamata Banerjee making a spectacle of herself riding a 'scooty' to protest fuel price hike, Modi said: “When you rode the scooty, everyone was praying that you don’t fall down. Had you fallen down, you would have blamed the state the scooty was manufactured in,” said Modi, to wild cheers from the crowds.

“You rode the scooty to go to Bhowanipore, but the scooty took a turn and took you to Nandigram. What can we do if the scooty has dumped you in Nandigram?” said Modi.

But it is not the crowd response to such jibes that is significant. Modi, through these jibes, subtly underlined and established Mamata Banerjee’s mercurial character and her propensity to indulge in gimmickry.

The Khela Hobe Slogan

Modi took up the Trinamool’s khela hobe challenge head on and demolished it effectively.

“They say khela hobe because they are khiladis (players). They have played a lot of games these past 10 years to loot people of Bengal and the state’s resources. They have played with people’s lives and aspirations,” said Modi.

“They have played with relief meant for victims of (cyclone) Amphan. Their games are the games of ghotala (rackets). Bengal is witnessing the Olympics of corruption in which there are games of tolabazi (extortion), syndicates and cut money.

“You have played with the lives of the poor, forced tea gardens to shut down and denied jobs to the deserving by playing with the recruitment processes,” said Modi.

And then he thundered: “Yeh khel nahin chalega” (this game will not go on). He asked the crowd: “Should this game stop?” To which the answer was a thunderous “Yes”.

To deafening cheers, Modi then declared: “TMC ka khela shesh. Khela khotom. Ebar bikash shuru” (TMC’s game is over. Now the game of development will start). This was followed by roaring chants of ‘Modi, Modi’.

Twist To Mamata’s Poriborton And Ma, Maati, Manush Slogans

But that was not all. Modi gave a completely new twist to Mamata’s ‘poriborton’ (change) slogan that she used to come to power 10 years ago.

“Where is the poriborton that was promised to you?” Modi asked the mammoth crowd. “Has the TMC been able to bring about change in your lives? Has any change come about in the lives of the poor and the farmers? Has any change happened in the condition of schools and hospitals? Has any change happened in the politics of violence?” asked Modi.

To each question, the answer from the crowd was a shattering ‘No’.

And then he went on to say that the BJP will bring about ‘ashol poriborton’ (the real change).

Ashol poriborton will be a Bengal where youths get adequate education and employment opportunities, where they don’t have to migrate to other states in search of work, where enterprises and industries flourish, where there is development for all and appeasement of none,” promised Modi.

Modi then went on to attack Mamata’s favourite Ma, maati, manush slogan. “Their (Trinamool) goons attack mothers. The whole country was horrified to see how Trinamool cadres brutally assaulted an 82-year old lady (read this) and left her battered and bruised. That is how much they care for Ma,” said Modi.

“The only mati (soil) they are interested in is the sand that they mine illegally and make huge sums of money from. The sand mining mafia thrives in Bengal,” said Modi.

“As for manush, they are at the end of their tether. People of Bengal are fed up with Trinamool’s tolabazi (extortion), tanashahi (dictatorship) and tushtikaran (appeasement),” he said.

Modi concluded his 70-minute speech with a new slogan: “chup-chap kamal chhaap, Trinamool saaf” (press the ‘lotus’ button silently and banish the Trinamool from power).

Apart from working the crowds, puncturing Mamata Banerjee’s claims and providing catchy slogans, Modi has effectively taken the air out of the Trinamool’s sails by demolishing its main campaign planks.

And that is why Sunday’s massive rally is set to change the discourse of the election campaign in Bengal.

Hear Modi’s entire speech:

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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