Senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah is set to arrive in Bihar’s Seemanchal region on Friday, a visit being keenly watched following the National Investigation Agency’s raids against the Popular Front of India in Purnia and Araria districts, along with locations in other states.
Kicking off the party’s 2024 Lok Sabha election campaign in the region, Amit Shah will begin the Seemanchal visit with a rally in Purnia, where the presence of the PFI has been on the rise along with other districts like Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia and Araria.
Offices and addresses linked to the radical Islamic outfit were raided by multi-agency teams spearheaded by the NIA on Thursday, leading to the arrest of 106 functionaries for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country. In all, 93 locations in 15 states were raided.
Speaking to News18 about Shah’s visit, BJP state vice-president Siddarth Shambhu, who has been overseeing preparations in Purnia, said: “Seemanchal will vote on religious lines while rest of Bihar will vote on caste basis. Hindus and Muslims have been living in harmony, but the issue of illegal Bangladeshis has sharply polarised the society. Today, everyone appears to be okay, but what will happen 10-15 years down the line… no one can predict.”
The party expects a crowd strength of 1 lakh at Amit Shah’s rally in Purnia. BJP state unit chief Dr Sanjay Agrawal, MoS (Home) Nityanand Rai, former minister Ravishankar Prasad and other senior party functionaries have been camping in Seemanchal and inviting people in nearby districts to attend the rally.
After Purnia, Shah will hold a meeting with BJP MLAs, MPs and core committee members in Kishanganj to chalk out strategies for 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP has surprised rivals JD(U) and RJD this time by choosing to start its campaign from the Seemanchal region. The party used to launch its Bihar campaign from Gandhi Maidan in Patna when it was in alliance with the JD(U), which ended recently.
To counter the BJP’s strategy, state JD(U) president Lallan Singh has also decided to hold a rally in Seemanchal. Addressing party workers in Patna, he said the BJP has been trying to “pollute” Bihar’s social and political atmosphere.
While the PFI’s growing presence in the region is likely to form a major chunk of the election narrative, the influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has become another electoral issue, along with the expansionist threat from China.
“The BJP has always been active in Seemanchal area but to tackle the expansionist policies of China, Home Minister Amit Shah will visit border areas adjoining Nepal and meet Sashastra Seema Bal officials and jawans,” said BJP MLC Dilip Jaiswal, who contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Kishanganj.
Speaking to News18, renowned educationist and social worker Dr A Imam said too much has been read into Amit Shah’s visit.
“Amit Shah has been known for taking bigger decisions and he may announce something for the region. There is no history of communal strife in Purnia. Those who crossed over to India from Bangladesh are generally involved in illegal activities,” he said, adding that of allowed to meet the Home Minister, he would raise social and economic issues in the region.
The NDA had swept 39 of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in 2019, with the BJP alone winning 17 seats. The Janata Dal (United) won 16 seats, while the Loktantrik Janata Party (LJP) won six. The only seat NDA failed to win was Kishanganj, which has a Muslim-majority electorate.