Amid the fierce and crucial poll battle in Bengal, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who has been roped by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for West Bengal assembly elections, has said that the anti-incumbency faced by Trinamool Congress has opened the doors for BJP and that there is "anger" against the ruling party in the state. In the leaked audio of clubhouse chat, Kishor, who had said nearly four months back that BJP will struggle to cross double figures in the state, admitted that BJP has workers on the ground and that people were coming in large numbers to rallies of the Prime Minister who has acquired a "cult" in the country.
He said that the Matua community was predominantly voting for the BJP and that there had been "blatant misuse of minority politics" by non-BJP parties in the state.
"There is vote in the name of Modi. There is vote for being Hindu. Polarisation, Modi, Hindi speakers, these are factors. Modi is popular. There are over one crore Hindi speakers. There are 27 per cent Dalits, they are totally with BJP. When we do a survey and ask people whose government will be formed in Bengal, then it comes in our survey that the government is being formed by BJP," he said.
Kishor said those who vote for BJP are voting for it and a majority of Left voters also think that BJP is forming the government.
"BJP has a lot of workers who could have been imported from the Left parties. If we leave one or two districts, there is no other district where BJP does not have a strong cadre," Kishor said.
Kishor's conversation was tweeted by Amit Malviya, national in-charge of BJP's Information and Technology department and co-in charge of West Bengal.
Kishor said there is no anti-incumbency against PM Modi.
"10-15-20-25 per cent people see God in him. Whether it is right or wrong, that is a different debate. He has acquired a cult in the country. The Hindi speaking people are the core support base of BJP in Bengal. There is anti-incumbency against the state government, not the Centre. Modi is quite popular here. We are doing surveys. Modi and Mamata are equally popular in Bengal which is a very big thing," Kishor said.
He also indicated that the people of Bengal were striving for a change.
"People of Bengal have not seen the rule of BJP so far, they have not tasted it and they are wanting to do it. People are coming to rallies, there is popularity of Modi and mobilization. There is anger against Trinamool Congress. That is a factor. Polarisation is a factor. The anti-incumbency against Trinamool that has opened the doors for BJP, their ability to polarize and SC votes," he said.
He said a major problem was that for 20 years "everything has been done to appease the minorities" and added that there had been a feeling that the government will be formed by a party that gets the support of Muslims. Noting that Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left had been part of this ecosystem, Kishor said for the first time Hindus are feeling that "somebody is caring for them".
"There is some element that BJP is exploiting and that is coming from blatant misuse of minority politics by some of these parties," he said.
Kishor later tweeted that BJP is taking his chat more seriously than the words of their own leaders!
"I am glad BJP is taking my chat more seriously than words of their own leaders! They should show courage & share the full chat instead of getting excited with selective use of parts of it. I have said this before & repeating again - BJP will not CROSS 100 in WB. Period," he said in a tweet.
Malviya also tweeted about Kishor's clubhouse chat.
"In a public chat on Club House, Mamata Banerjee's election strategist concedes that even in TMC's internal surveys, BJP is winning. The vote is for Modi, polarisation is a reality, the SCs (27 per cent of WB's population), Matuas are all voting for the BJP! BJP has cadre on the ground. Another candid admission by Mamata Banerjee's election strategist - all that the Left, Congress and TMC ecosystem have done in the last 20 years is Muslim appeasement. Implication? It has resulted in resentment on the ground. The speakers had not realised that the chat was public!" Malviya said.
"Modi is hugely popular in Bengal and there is no doubt about it. There is a cult around him across the country. There is anti-incumbency against TMC, polarisation is a reality, SC votes is a factor plus BJP's election machinery, says Mamata Banerjee's strategist in an open chat. Is it open? That moment when Mamata Banerjee's strategist realised that the Club House room was open and his admissions were being heard by the public at large and not just a handful of Lutyens journalist. Deafening silence followed... TMC's election was just thrown away!" Malviya added.
Kishor had in December last said BJP will struggle to cross double digits in Bengal and he would quit Twitter if results were different. "For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality, BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space," he had said.
Polling underway in Bengal
Polling began at 7 am on Saturday for 44 seats in the fourth phase of the West Bengal assembly elections amid tight security, officials said. Voting is underway with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in nine seats in Howrah district, 11 in South 24 Parganas, five in Alipurduar, nine in Cooch Behar and 10 in Hooghly, they said.
Long queues were seen outside polling stations where voting will continue till 6.30 pm.
Over 1.15 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 373 candidates, including Union minister Babul Supriyo and state ministers Partha Chatterjee and Arup Biswas.
Tight security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful voting, with 789 companies of central armed police forces (CAPF) being deployed to guard 15,940 polling stations.
At least 187 companies of CAPF, the highest deployment of forces among poll-bound districts in the phase, are in Cooch Behar, which has witnessed sporadic incidents of violence, including an attack on BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, in the run-up to the elections.
State police forces have also been deployed at strategic locations to aid the central forces.
Elections for the 294 assembly seats in West Bengal are being held in eight phases. The votes will be counted on May 2.