The BJP leadership has decided to launch a campaign blitzkrieg in West Bengal to counter the TMC's "misinformation programmes" regarding Citizenship (Amendment) Act and reach out to refugees.
The West Bengal BJP leadership had hoped that that the new citizenship law would be its "political trump card" ahead of the 2021 assembly polls in the state.
But an aggressive campaign against the CAA by the Trinamool Congress, other opposition parties, civil society groups, students and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's declaration not to implement the CAA in the state, has put the saffron party on the backfoot.
Apart from launching state-wide campaign against the new legislation, Banerjee has participated in six protest marches and three rallies in various parts of the state.
In contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has organised only one mega march in the city, led by party's national working president J P Nadda, and rallies by the state president to counter the anti-CAA protests led by the chief minister.
According to state BJP sources, a blueprint of Bengal-specific programmes and campaigns has been prepared to to reach out to the masses and allay fears and misinformation campaign about the CAA.
"The blueprint of the campaign has already been given a nod by the party's central leadership. The multi-pronged campaign, targeting a cross section of people across the state, will begin from this month," a senior BJP leader said.
It has also been decided that during the campaign not a single word will be uttered about the proposed NRC in the state as it might send a wrong message, the BJP leader said.
According to state BJP sources, the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act will determine the course of West Bengal politics in the days to come with the state bracing for a deeper polarization between the TMC and the BJP on communal lines ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls.
"We will leave no stone unturned to reach out to the masses on the issue of the CAA. Just to appease her vote bank, Mamata Banerjee is opposing the CAA and trying to stop refugees from getting citizenship.
"But we will not let that happen, we will expose the misinformation campaign through our counter-campaign. There is already a huge support in favour of the CAA," BJP national general secretary and Bengal minder Kailash Vijayvargiya said.
State BJP vice president and MP Subhas Sarkar and state BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu, in coordination with the central leadership, are looking into the campaign strategy in the state.
According to state BJP sources, the campaign programme will include door-to-door visits, street corner meetings, seminars, street plays, advertisements in local newspapers, audio visual capusules on movies about refugees coming to India after partition and using social media to create a positive narrative on the CAA.
"We will form a special team of around two to three lakh activists across the state, who will be trained to carry out door-to-door campaigns.
"Out of these, 20,000 cadres would be selected to look after campaigns in their respective areas," Sarkar told PTI.
According to a senior BJP leader, the specially trained activists would not only make people aware about the CAA but also help them in applying online for citizenship as the state government is not keen on implementing it.
The state BJP also plans to send one crore thanks giving letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Act.
According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants, and be given Indian citizenship.
According to state BJP sources, the CAA will benefit more than 1.5 crore people across the country, including over 72 lakh in the West Bengal.
Hindu refugees are a deciding factor in nearly 80 assembly seats in the state, whereas Muslims constitute a sizable chunk of voters in around 90 constituencies.
Apart from this, Hindu refugees are also spread in around 40-50 other seats, comprising between 10 and 15 per cent of the electorate.
"Our target is to reach out to one crore people across the state with the message of CAA. The new act does not take away citizenship rather it gives citizenship to refugees. We have identified refugee pockets and special focus would be given to these areas," Basu said.
As a part of its audio visual campaign, it is using footage of the exodus of refugees from East Pakistan in 1947, and portions of footage of movies on refugees crisis and will upload it on social media platforms.
The BJP has made a six-minute video using footage of great Calcutta killings in 1946, dialogues from Bengali films, with an objective to showcase the plight of refugees in post- partition years and make people understand the need for the amended Citizenship Act.
"We will also organise special meetings with certain sections of the society such as doctors, engineers, artists, writers, lawyers, teachers, religious leaders and professors, where we would make them understand the need for CAA," Sarkar said.
The TMC mocked the decision of the saffron party to launch a campaign on the issue of the CAA, saying it would "fall flat" as it has already been rejected by the people of the state.
"Their campaign will not find any resonance among the masses as people have voiced their protest against the divisive bill," TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.