Kolkata: At a rally in central Kolkata this afternoon, BJP chief Amit's Shah message and target were clear. "We are here to uproot Mamata Banerjee," he said, as thousands present at the venue cheered.
Taking on the Trinamool Congress chief on her opposition to the 40 lakh people left out of the National Register of Citizens or NRC in Assam, he said Bangladeshi immigrants are Mamata Banerjee's votebank. The BJP claims Mamata Banerjee's sharp rhetoric against evicting illegal immigrants has much to do with her effort to nurture this vote bank to retain their support.
"All Mamata ji has done, is to object against the NRC. But NRC is the process to throw illegal immigrants out. Shouldn't Bangladeshi immigrants be thrown out," he asked.
"For us country first comes, before vote bank. Oppose us as much as you want but we will not stall the process of NRC," Mr Shah added.
Mr Shah's Kolkata visit is part of his effort to rapidly expand the party's base that sends 42 lawmakers to Lok Sabha. In 2014, it had won just two seats from Bengal and hopes to improve its tally in 2019. The BJP chief has handed his party an ambitious target of 50 per cent Lok Sabha seats in the state.
At last count, the political temperature in Bengal has been shooting up over Assam's citizens' list, more so after Bengal chief minister controversially claimed that it could trigger violence, even civil war. Mr Shah promptly hit back, insisting that his government would ensure that the court verdict on the citizens' scheme was implemented down to the last "full stop and comma".
Ms Banerjee had once been a vocal votary of deporting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But a decade back, CPM was still the dominant political force in Bengal and enjoyed support of the Muslim community including pockets widely perceived to be inhabited by illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
Photos: Politicians then and now