KOLKATA: Campaign against illegal infiltration, alleged misrule of the ruling TMC and the promise of NRC implementation in West Bengal have helped the BJP reach the staggering figure of 77 lakh plus in its recent membership drive in the state, party sources here said.
According to BJP leaders, the majority of its new members are in the age group of 25-40, which reflects the party's growing acceptance among the youth.
The districts where the drive met with remarkable success include Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Alipurduar in north Bengal, along the India- Bangladesh border, besides Malda, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas, they said.
The membership drive has also evoked an exceptional response in Jangalmahal districts of West Midnapore, Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura, the saffron party leaders claimed.
"It is not that we have performed well only in the bordering districts. We have also received a positive response from places like like Jhargram and Midnapore," BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.
In the border areas, an overwhelming number of people have joined the BJP as they were fed up with the TMC's misrule, corruption, unemployment, and lack of initiatives to check infiltration, he said.
The country-wide membership drive was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on July 6, on the occasion of party ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee's birth anniversary.
It ended on August 20.
The Bengal BJP surpassed the 60-lakh target set by the central leadership.
Following the stupendous response, the BJP's central leadership has decided that the drive would continue till December in West Bengal, one of the priority states for the party, a senior leader said.
During the last such drive in 2014, the saffron party had enrolled just 42,000 members.
"Our promise of implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), if the BJP is voted to power, and campaigns against illegal infiltration and TMC's misrule have paid off in the state," the senior party leader told PTI.
The issues of illegal infiltration and implementation of NRC, in line with neighbouring Assam, were the major poll planks of the party in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP, in the general election this year, bagged 18 of the 42 seats in the state, four less than the ruling TMC.
The TMC's tally came down from 34 in 2014 to 22 seats.
The saffron party bagged all Lok Sabha constituencies in Coochbehar, North and South Dinajpur, Bankura, Purulia, Alipurduar and Jhargram districts.
"But what needs to be seen is how much this campaign against illegal infiltration from Bangladesh has paid off in the North and South 24 Parganas, where the party failed to secure any seat, apart from Nadia and Malda districts, where it won one seat each," the BJP leader said.
"We have traditionally been on a sticky wicket in these districts due to high minority population. But the response to the membership drive reflects the changing attitude of the people there towards us," he claimed.
Minority appeasement in the bordering districts has left the majority population disgruntled, the saffron party leader added.
The TMC leadership, however, feels that the "communal politics" has helped the BJP gain ground in Bengal.
"The BJP, after the parliamentary polls, is using the communal card to divide the masses along religious lines and gain ground. We have to defeat this sinister design. The communal politics of the BJP will be discarded by the people of Bengal," TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee told PTI.
In the last few years, the saffron party has made deep inroads in Bengal and emerged as the main challenger to the ruling TMC by pushing the Congress and the Left Front to distant third and fourth positions respectively.
Its leaders are now asserting that their next target was to unseat Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the 2021 Assembly elections.