The Asian Age – Kamal Nath approaches Sonia Gandhi after failing to meet Rahul

Rabindra Nath Choudhury

Bhopal – Madhya Pradesh – India, 17 June 2019. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath was believed to have sought permission from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to expand his Cabinet after he failed to get an audience with AICC president Rahul Gandhi to discuss the issue, Congress sources said on Sunday.

Mr Nath had visited New Delhi twice in the last fortnight and failed to meet Mr Gandhi on both the occasions.

He was scheduled to discuss with him on the proposed reshuffle in Congress in MP and the pending expansion of his ministry, sources said.

“After his failure to meet Mr Gandhi, he has written a letter to the UPA chairperson seeking her nod to go for his Cabinet expansion”, a senior Congress leader disclosed to this newspaper requesting not to be quoted.

Mr Nath has sought approval from the party high command for his plan to drop six ministers in his Cabinet and induct an equal number of new faces in his ministry in the proposed expansion of his Cabinet.

He was planning to accommodate at least one MLA each from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) and three Independents in his ministry to ensure stability of his government.

The Kamal Nath government which enjoyed a wafer-thin majority survived on outside support from two BSP MLAs, one SP legislator and four Independents.

One Independent has already been inducted in his cabinet. Ruling Congress has strength of 114 in 230-member MP assembly. The party was short of two MLAs to gain majority in the house.

The Asian Age – Editor, TV channel head arrested over defamatory content against Adityanath

During a debate on the channel on June 6, a woman had allegedly made defamatory statements against Adityanath, the police said.

Noida – UP – India, 09 June 2019, The head of a private television news channel and its editor were arrested here Saturday for allegedly broadcasting defamatory content against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, police said.

During a debate on the channel on 06 June, a woman had allegedly made defamatory statements against Adityanath, the police said.

Workers affiliated to a political party had approached the police with a complaint against the news channel for broadcasting the claims of the woman without verifying facts, a senior official said.

“This could have led to a possible law and order situation,” Senior Superintendent of Police, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Vaibhav Krishna said. During probe it was also found that the channel did not have any requisite licence to operate, he said.

An additional complaint over the illegal operation of the channel was made by district additional director, information, at Phase 3 police station following which an FIR under IPC sections 420 (fraud), 467 (forgery of documents) and related offences was registered, the officer said.

“They have been arrested on both counts for the defamatory content as well as illegal operation of the channel,” Krishna told PTI. The channel’s version was not immediately available.

The Asian Age – Shillong’s Punjabi Lane residents get notice to prove legality of stay

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 01 June 2019. The authorities have clamped prohibitory orders in Punjabi Lane area in Shillong and served notices to its residents directing them to furnish documents within a month to prove that they had settled in the area legally.

Punjabi Lane is inhabited by people from Punjab, who were brought to Shillong around 200 years ago by the British to work as cleaners and sweepers. An incident of assault in the area in May last year had resulted in group clashes following which it was put under curfew for over a month.

Following the direction of a High Level Committee of the state government, Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) officials served the notices to the people on Friday.

Prohibitory Orders under Section 144 CrPC were clamped in Punjabi Lane before the notices were served as there were intelligence inputs apprehending trouble in the area, a senior official of the East Khasi Hills district administration said.

The prohibitory orders will remain in place till further notice. “Most of the residents received the notice in person. Officials pasted the notices on the front doors of the houses which were under lock and key,” an SMB official told PTI.

In the notice, the residents of the Punjabi Lane were asked to furnish documents regarding their possession of either land or house and the period of their stay.

The notice said the information will be helpful for preparing both long and short term policies by the government for resolving the issue at Punjabi Lane.

Of the hundreds of people at Punjabi Lane, only 184 employees of the SMB and government departments and their families have earlier been identified as legal settlers, official sources said adding that there was a demand from various quarters to relocate the Punjabis from the area.

“They have been requested to come forward and furnish the information to the SMB office between June 3 and July 3,” SMB Chief Executive Officer S B Sohliya said.

The SMB will wait for a month and submit a report about the matter to the High Level Committee (HLC) constituted to find out a feasible solution for relocation of the people of Punjabi Lane, also known as Sweeper’s Colony.

As per the inventory survey conducted by the SMB last year, there are over 300 households in Punjabi Lane, Sohliya said.

The settlers had refused to cooperate with the authorities during the survey conducted last year and “this is their second and the last opportunity,” Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, who is the head of the HLC, had said earlier this month.

The local Punjabi community in December last year had urged Governor Tathagata Roy to disband the HLC for allegedly issuing orders with intent to displace them.

On 29 May 2018, clashes erupted when a bus driver and his friend were attacked at the Punjabi Lane area and they received injuries. As rumours of the assaulted victims dying in hospital spread on social media, people attacked the settlers following which the entire area was put under curfew for over a month.

Following this, a delegation of the Punjab government visited the city and interacted with the settlers. The delegation members also met Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma.

However, the Meghalaya administration expressed unhappiness after the Punjab government sanctioned Rs 60 lakh as compensation to the community members who were affected by the violence.

The Asian Age – Modi cannot remove Article 370, 35-A from Jammu & Kashmir: Farooq Abdullah

He said the prime minister should make efforts to unite the people of the country instead of dividing them.

Jammu – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 24 May 2019. National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah said on Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot remove Article 35-A and Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir.

He said the prime minister should make efforts to unite the people of the country instead of dividing them. “Let him be as powerful as he (Modi) likes, he cannot remove Article 370 and article 35-A (from the state of Jammu and Kashmir),” Abdullah told reporters here.

“Our right of Article 370 and Article 35-A should be protected. This is very important for us. We are soldiers of this country not enemies of this nation,” he said. Article 370 grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state.

Article 35A empowers the state assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ for bestowing special rights and privileges on them. Abdullah urged Modi to connect the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country through rail network.

The NC chief said his party will provide autonomy to all the three regions of Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu after winning the assembly polls. Abdullah (83) got 1,06,750 votes and defeated Aga Syed Mohsin of the PDP by 70,050 votes in the Srinagar constituency, which has a total electorate of 12,94,560.

This will be Abdullah’s fourth term in the Lok Sabha, having been a member in 1980, 2009 and 2017 previously. He appreciated Congress chief Rahul Gandhi for continuing with his agenda of unity and diversity. “Winning and losing are part of life.

Rahul Gandhi after five years will make a comeback and I don’t think that people of Amethi will forget him. I think he (Rahul) will sit down and introspect as to why this happened and how to ensure Congress becomes stronger,” the NC chief said.

To a question about talks with Pakistan, Abdullah said if the prime minister wants to save the nation, he needs to be in friendly terms with our neighbours.

The Asian Age – Photoshopped image shows first-ever Sikh Mayor as Arab Dictator in US

Washington DC – USA, 16 May 2019. Ravi Singh Bhalla, the first ever Sikh mayor of a city in New Jersey, has been allegedly racially targeted after his photoshopped image as an Arab dictator was published on a local website.

The New Jersey-based website, “Hudson Mile Square View”, ran an image of Hoboken Mayor Bhalla that resembled the lead character played by British actor Sacha Baron Cohen in the comedy film “The Dictator”.

The photo was part of a story titled, “Ravi Bhalla goes to the mattresses… for his tax increase”.

It accused Bhalla of “summoning all the powers” of his office to “re-institute a tax increase” that was not approved by the city council.

According to the website, Bhalla had proposed a 3 per cent tax increase but the council slashed it to 1 per cent. The story said now “the pushback from the Mayor’s office to take back the tax reduction is underway”.

Sikh activists denounced the image as racist.

Community speaker and activist Simran Jeet Singh tweeted on Tuesday: “Ravi Bhalla is the first-ever turbaned Sikh elected as Mayor in US history.”

“He’s endured immense racist abuse, from flyers calling him a terrorist to death threats against him and his family. Now, someone is photoshopping Ravi to depict him as a despot. This is racist and wrong.”

Audrey Truschke, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the book Aurangzeb, too, expressed her solidarity with Bhalla.

She tweeted: “Disagreeing with politics is OK, discrimination and racism is not. Read this thread, and the thread it references at the end, to educate yourself about ongoing prejudice in America. Such hate will cease when we all reject bigotry. Solidarity with @RaviBhalla”.

Later on Tuesday night, the website said that the image was submitted by a reader.

The website has earlier also photoshopped his images.

In February 2017, it posted a photo of Bhalla with a “Pinocchio” nose.

Hudson Mile Square View, which calls itself “Hoboken’s biggest website covering government, politics and corruption”, has been critical of Bhalla right from the beginning of his mayoral term in 2017.

This is not the first time that Bhalla, the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, has experienced racist attacks over his religion and turban. Soon after his election in 2017, racist flyers calling him a terrorist were circulated in the city.

The Asian Age – Foreign policy options after May 23 verdict

In India, the Narendra Modi government’s changes in foreign policy are both cosmetic and substantive.

K C Singh

Op/Ed, 8 May 2019. It may be useful to analyse the possible impact on Indian foreign policy of the looming May 23 Lok Sabha results. Three possible scenarios are a government led by the BJP, perhaps without a majority on its own; or a similar alliance led by the Congress; or an alliance led by a Third Front leader, albeit supported by either the BJP or the Congress.

A less likely, but not improbable, scenario could be a BJP-led government under someone other than Narendra Modi.

A similar debate has begun in America as a battery of Democrats have lined up to challenge President Donald Trump. In particular, the entry of Joe Biden, vice-president under Barack Obama, has sharpened the debate due to his legacy and experience. But Democrats don’t simply want to return to the past or the Obama track. The Economist notes “rumbles of revisionism”.

Broadly there is a consensus on the need for restraint as an evangelical pursuit to change the world and endless wars have depleted America’s wealth and ill-served intended aims. They also agree foreign and domestic policies must not be in silos as the US, when peddling democratic values abroad, must not ignore corruption and kleptocracy.

Finally, they debate whether foreign policy making needs to be democratised rather than conducted under notional congressional oversight. The recent move to limit the President’s war-making powers points there.

A Democratic administration may return the US to the Paris Accord on climate change, rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, albeit with suitable tweaking, return to the Nato alliance without ambiguities, and so on.

Yet some elements may have been changed by President Trump irreversibly, like the bipartisan consensus on Sino-US relations is trade and investment with China needs new terms of engagement. This has implications for World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform.

In India, the Narendra Modi government’s changes in foreign policy are both cosmetic and substantive. The first relates more to hugging and protocol aspects that a new incumbent can immediately change, but can be expected to be persisted with by a re-elected Modi government.

The second falls under following headings: India-USA relations; China-Indian relations; Pakistan and the “zero terror” policy; countering radical Islamic terror and Jammu and Kashmir; Gulf and Iran.

It is noteworthy that the consensus on foreign policy, which last broke over the India-USA nuclear deal in 2008, largely shattered in the past five years due to the highly personalised, and hyper-nationalistic diplomacy of Mr Modi. Berating the Opposition while abroad, albeit on the pretext of addressing the Indian diaspora, began its collapse.

India’s readjustment to the post-Cold War world began with the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1991. Between him, the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led BJP government of 1998 and the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-1 in 2004, there was continuity in style and content.

The USA was wooed while retaining strategic independence, China engaged to incrementally expand areas of convergence, putting disputes on hold, Pakistan unsuccessfully but repeatedly tested to wean it away from terror sponsorship and accept confidence-building measures as a precursor to dispute settlement, J&K handled with a combination of hard and soft approaches, and finally a balance maintained in India’s policy towards the Gulf, Iran, West Asia and Israel. India also had a more active “Look East” policy, renamed “Act East” by the Modi government.

Essentially, you act only after you look, so it was the 1991 policy continued, to balance China, help craft a new Asian security architecture through building blocks like Asean Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and even the Quad, comprising four democracies straddling the Indo-Pacific, Australia, India, Japan and the USA.

A non-BJP government may begin by toning down the excessive bonhomie towards the Trump administration, which has openly backed Mr Modi, ensuring “wins” before and during the Lok Sabha polls. It is unimaginable that Pakistan would hand back IAF officer Abhinandan Varthaman, while Mr Modi is still threatening Pakistan, unless the USA-Saudi-Emirati interlocutors assured the Imran Khan government that this was merely domestic posturing.

Mr Modi claimed his threat, apparently nuclear, got Pakistan to comply. If threats worked, why did not India get consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, detained for espionage, and had to go to the International Court of Justice at The Hague?

Similarly, the rushed listing of Masood Azhar, that some reports said China was reluctant to concede during the Indian election, had a USA role, about which they reminded India when seeking Iran’s isolation. Earlier, the UAE had conveniently deported or extradited individuals during the Rajasthan and Lok Sabha polls as these were required to nail the Congress for corruption.

Desirable as cooperation is for combating corruption and terrorism, it must be balanced against insulating India’s elections from foreign interference. After all, Russia is similarly accused in America, which President Trump denies but the Robert Mueller report implicitly confirms.

A non-BJP government, particularly a Congress-led or supported one, may examine what, if any, were the trade-offs. First, Indian non-retaliation was conspicuous when the US imposed duties on Indian products. Second, the US pressuring India to distance itself from Iran and Russia.

Strategic independence, a core value on which our foreign policy rests, appears under pressure, if not compromised. But worse is foreign powers backing their favourites.

Pakistan is another case in point. Treating J&K as a pure law and order issue and Pakistan as a lunatic asylum impervious to anything but shock treatment of “surgical strikes” is brazen use of neighbourhood policy for communal-baiting domestically.

It may or may not win elections, but it leaves a poisoned chalice for a successor government, although it’s unlikely Pakistan policy will return to the romance of the Gujral-Vajpayee-Manmohan period. But no counter-terror policy can work which alienates a minority exposed to jihadi propaganda via the Internet, employment in the Gulf and travel.

The Sri Lankan Easter massacre is a warning of what awaits India. ISIS and its “caliphate” uprooted from Syria-Iraq is mutating and re-planting wherever fertile ground is available. Africa, particularly Sahel, is harbouring fleeing and new adherents, which the April 29 video of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will fuel.

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have seen escalating attacks. British intelligence is tracking 10,500 jihadists in Sahel. How can India escape when BJP leaders are churning the communal pot for their electoral khichdi? The next government has a Herculean task to return the genie to the bottle, and counter politicisation of the military.

Hopefully, India’s voters will reject this dangerous gambit and its creator, Mr Modi, whom The Economist has dubbed “Agent Orange”.

The writer is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry.
He tweets at @ambkcsingh.

The Asian Age – BJP candidate Sunny Deol offers prayers at Dera Baba Nanak Gurdwara

Gurdaspur – Panjab – India, 02 May 2019. Actor Sunny Deol, the BJP candidate from the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat, Thursday offered prayers at the Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak here before hitting the campaign trail.

The national film award winner for movies “Ghayal” and “Damini” is pitted against sitting MP and Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar, AAP’s Peter Masih and PDA’s Lal Chand in electoral fight from Gurdaspur seat.

Accompanied by BJP leader Kamal Sharma, Deol offered prayers at the Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak and had a glimpse of the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan through binoculars installed at ‘darshan sthal’ here.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.

Both India and Pakistan had agreed to build the Kartarpur corridor to facilitate devotees to offer prayers at the historic Gurdawra Darbar Sahib – the final resting place of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev- in Pakistani town of Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

He also went to Prachin Shiv Temple in Kalanaur in Gurdaspur to offer prayers. It was a tough time for security personnel to tackle the crowds who were keen to meet the Bollywood actor and get photos clicked with him at the Shiv temple.

For a brief period, Deol appeared through sunroof panel of his vehicle and accepted flowers bouquet and garlands from the people gathered to have a glimpse of him. Deol will take out a road show from here later in the day. It will pass through several areas including Pathankot, Bhoa and Sarna.

He returned to Gurdasur from Mumbai on Wednesday and met families of martyrs at Shadipur village in Dinanagar here.

“I have already said that you stay in my heart. I want to work towards meeting all your needs and requirements. I am not saying just for the sake of making statement. I want everyone to be happy and have a smile on their face,” Deol had said on Wednesday night. “Hindustan Zindabad hai, Zindabad rahega,” he said before ending his speech.

All the 13 seats of Punjab will go to polls on May 19. Meanwhile, Congress nominee and sitting MP Sunil Jakhar Thursday dared Deol for holding a debate with him on issues concerning the Gurdaspur constituency. “Welcome back to Gurdaspur, @iamsunnydeol.

Before you leave again for Mumbai, Would once again like to invite you to debate various issues concerning this border belt, whenever it is convenient for you,” Jakhar tweeted.

Jakhar had won the seat in the 2017 bypoll which was necessitated after the death of Vinod Khanna in April that year. Khanna had represented the seat four times in the Lok Sabha.

The Asian Age – HC seeks SIT’s reply on 1984 riot convict’s sentence suspension plea

The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.

New Delhi – India, 25 April 2019. The Delhi High Court has sought Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) response on a plea by a convict, who was awarded life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, who has interim suspension of his sentence on medical ground.

It asked the jail superintendent to give a report on the convict Naresh Sehrawat’s medical condition. It asked the (SIT) and the state to respond to the convict’s plea in which he claimed that his liver was 90 per cent damaged and sought interim suspension of the sentence.

The SIT has been asked to verify the documents given by Sehrawat in support of his medical condition.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 1. A trial court had awarded life term to Sherawat in a case related to the killing of two men in New Delhi during the 1984 riots, the first convictions in the cases reopened by the SIT. It had also awarded capital punishment to co-convict Yashpal Singh in the case.

The appeals of both the convicts, against their conviction and sentence by the trial court as well as the death reference of Yashpal, are pending in the high court.

The court had earlier issued notice to Yashpal on the reference to confirm his death sentence. The Delhi Police had closed the case in 1994 for want of evidence, but it was reopened by the SIT.

The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.

While this was the first death penalty after the SIT was formed, one Kishori was earlier given the death penalty by a trial court in as many as seven anti-Sikh riots cases. However, the Delhi High Court confirmed death penalty only in three cases, which were later commuted to life term by the apex court.

As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the death penalty cannot be executed unless confirmed by the high court. The trial court had awarded varying jail terms to the convicts and imposed fines for offences including attempt to murder, dacoity and attacking victims by dangerous weapons.

It had spared convict Sherawat the gallows on medical grounds. The trial court had convicted Yashpal and Sherawat for killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur area of South Delhi on November 1, 1984 during the riots that had taken place after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The case was lodged on a complaint by victim Hardev’s brother Santokh Singh. The trial court had held both the accused guilty for the offences of murder, attempt to murder, dacoity and voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means under the IPC.

A mob of about 500 persons, led by the two convicts, had encircled the house of the victims and had killed them. It was just one of the incidents out of several others Delhi alone witnessed during the riots that saw around 3,000 people being killed.

Of the 650 cases registered in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 267 were closed as untraced by the Delhi Police. Of these 267 cases, five were later taken up by the CBI. The SIT also scrutinised records of 18 cancelled cases.

The Asian Age – People have forgotten Jallianwala Bagh, says Manjinder Singh Sirsa

Hundreds of people were killed at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar during the Baisakhi festival on 13 April 1919.

New Delhi – India, 14 April 2019. There is no one in the national capital to remember those killed in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, said Manjinder Singh Sirsa, chief of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, ruing over the lack of initiative in the city to mark 100 years of the incident on Saturday.

Hundreds of people were killed at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar during the Baisakhi festival on April 13, 1919, when troops of the British Army under the command of General Reginald Dyer opened fire at a crowd holding a pro-independence demonstration.

“Our countrymen have forgotten the thousands of martyrs who died in the massacre. It is with great sadness that I say this, while the commemoration is happening at India Gate where the names of the martyrs of the World War are etched, but unfortunately, in the capital city of this country, there is no one to remember those who died in the massacre,” Mr Sirsa said.

“We have never forgotten the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh and we will not let anyone forget them,” he added.

The Asian Age – We will scrap Article 370, introduce NRC across country: Amit Shah

Shah accused Mamata Banerjee of questioning air strikes to ‘appease’ her minority vote bank

Kalimpong – West Bengal – India, 11 April 2019. The BJP will scrap Article 370 of the Constitution which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and introduce National Register for Citizens across the country if voted to power again, BJP chief Amit Shah said Thursday, raking up the two hugely disputed issues.

On the campaign trail in West Bengal, he also accused TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee of questioning the air strikes to “appease” her minority vote bank, and demanded that she clarify whether she too favoured a separate prime minister for Jammu and Kashmir like her ally National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

We will remove Article 370 from Kashmir after forming the next BJP government at the Centre,” Shah told an election rally here in Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency where the party has fielded industrialist Raju Singh Bisht.

Shah alleged that Banerjee, who is vehemently opposed to the contentious National Register of Citizens (NRC) that is currently restricted to Assam, was “misleading” people, and vowed to introduce it in every state after winning the polls.

“It is our commitment to bring in NRC across the country to chuck out each and every infiltrator. Unlike Mamata Banerjee, we don’t treat infiltrators as our vote bank. For us national security is supreme. We would ensure that each and every Hindu and Buddhist refugee gets citizenship of this country,” he said.

Banerjee has repeatedly claimed the NRC, which seeks to weed out illegal migrants from Assam, will turn even bonafide Indian citizens into refugees.

The NRC got mired in a massive controversy after the names of around 40 lakh people, living in Assam for decades, were omitted from the complete draft that was released last year.

He also took on the West Bengal chief minister for “questioning the veracity” of the Indian Air Force’s strike in Pakistan’s Balakot to avenge the killing of 40 CRPF troopers in Kashmir, saying the IAF’s assault was mourned in only two places, Pakistan and Mamata Banerjee’s office.

“We came to know that Mamata Banerjee was mourning the air strikes. It is quite obvious that the air strikes will be mourned in Pakistan. But why is Mamata Banerjee mourning? She is mourning in order to appease her minority vote bank. This is a shame,” Shah said, attacking the West Bengal leader.

Mocking the grand opposition alliance proposed by Banerjee, Shah wondered why the Congress and CPI(M) were criticising the TMC if they were her allies.

“I wonder what kind of grand alliance Banerjee is proposing. She is saying vote for the grand alliance. Why are the Congress and CPI(M) criticising her TMC if they are allies at the Centre. The fact is no one is willing to stand with Banerjee. This alliance neither has a leader nor a policy,” he said.

Seeking to reach out to tea garden workers, who constitute a sizeable section of the electorate, the BJP chief said his party’s manifesto has promised to provide a pension of Rs 3,000 to them after the age of 60.

In Assam, where the BJP is in power, the government has twice transferred Rs 2,500 directly to their bank accounts, he said, claiming the TMC government in West Bengal neglected tea garden workers.

Shah said the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal were about “restoring democracy” in the TMC-ruled state.

The BJP is making a determined bid to expand its influence in West Bengal where the support base of the Congress and the Left has shrunk over the years.

Shah has set a somewhat ambitious target of winning 23 of the state’s 42 seats. The BJP had won only two seats in the state in 2014.