The Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal has already started preparing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It is hoping that contesting two by-elections and the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state will help the party gauge its preparedness on the ground. The party expects to make massive gains, both in terms of votes as well as seat share in the state.

Accordingly, the BJP has also started to conduct booth level meetings of all its workers and cadre in several districts of Bengal in a bid to prepare them for all the upcoming elections.

The party is also trying to formulate policies for booth level committees that would start work on the ground with door-to-door campaigns to make the presence of the party felt across the state. The party is also taking the help of social media and WhatsApp to make its presence felt among the youth and reach out to the masses with the message of the Central government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on one hand, and highlight the alleged “misdoings” of the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal, on the other hand.

A specialised social media team is already in place and, according to sources, the party feels that it would connect to youths in Bengal through social media campaigns as this has deeper connect and imprint on them.

According to sources within the BJP, the party is likely to take advantage of the two byelections of Uluberia Lok Sabha constituency and the Noapara Assembly constituency in Howrah district and Barrackpore sub-division respectively to take stock of its preparedness for 2019. The party expects to put up a strong fight in both the bypolls.

Apart from heavyweights from the state like Mukul Roy and Dilip Ghosh campaigning in  both these seats, Central BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, are likely to campaign for Uluberia in mid-January.  The state unit of the BJP is also deliberating on putting up strong candidates for both the seats. For Uluberia, the party is likely to choose between Locket Chatterjee, BJP’s Mahila Morcha president of West Bengal, and Ishrat Jahan, who recently joined the BJP and was one of the petitioners in the triple talaq case. For the Noapara Assembly constituency, the party is likely to decide the name of the candidate by the end of this week.

Not only this, the party will also write to the Election Commission (EC) to ensure that these by-elections are free and fair. The party will apprise the EC of the “massive violence” that has been witnessed in the earlier elections and will also demand that the EC ensure adequate number of Central forces for area dominance and Central observers to make sure that no “malpractices” happen during the elections.

Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy told The Sunday Guardian: “The party is on its way to achieve what the people of Bengal dreamt of. Work on the ground has already started and these two elections are very important for us; like all elections, the party will put up a strong fight and we are hopeful that the results will be good.”

The BJP expects to fare well in these two elections after the vote share of the party increased to nearly 18% from 2016 in the recently concluded Sabang by-election in the state. The by-election to the two seats would be held on 29 January, while counting of votes for the seats will be on 1 February.

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