West Bengal is in the middle of a heated election campaign. Four phases of elections are over, and both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress are claiming the upper hand.

The BJP continues to pitch its 'Sonar Bangla' pitch to the people of the state. Asianet Newsable's Yacoob reached out to Union Child Development minister Debasree Chaudhuri to get a deeper understanding of the BJP's campaign. 

How confident are you about BJP's victory this time in Bengal?

We are confident that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, in West Bengal, we will get over 200 seats and win the elections. With a big majority, we will form the government. We are confident about that.

The Bengal election campaign has been one of the most communal ever. What are your thoughts on this?

The situation that you have seen in West Bengal for the last ten years, the kind of politics that is being run, has turned communal. From BJP's end, it is 'Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas'. We are marching only with the development agenda and our slogan is the same, 'development'. No caste, no community, no Muslim, no Hindu, no Sikh, no Christian... We are not discussing these. Our only discussion revolves only around 'development' PM (Narendra Modi), Home Minister (Amit Shah) and party president (JP Nadda) have given a standing instruction that the campaign should be limited only to development.

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath said in an election rally in Hooghly that if BJP comes to power in Bengal, BJP will create Uttar Pradesh-like anti-Romeo squads to safeguard the interests of sisters and daughters. Do you think the people of Bengal will support this and if yes, why?

This is not just Yogi's (UP CM Yogi Adityanath) statement. This is the view of all of us (BJP). In West Bengal, women have become very unsafe. You may have noticed that the state has slipped downward when it comes to women's safety. It is in the third spot now. When it comes to human trafficking, West Bengal is always leading. Women's safety is a prime issue for us. Whatever is necessary to keep our women safe we will do it, hence I stand by whatever Yogi says in this regard. The irony is that despite having a woman CM (West Bengal), women are not safe. We will do it (create anti-Romeo squads after forming the government).

The question of who will become West Bengal CM if BJP comes to power is gaining prominence. The Prime Minister says that the next CM will be from Bengal itself. Will it be Mukul Roy or Dilip Ghosh?

Anybody can be. Ours is not a party that belongs to an individual. We have many leaders. Whoever fits into the post, the party will coordinate and that person may become a chief minister but that is not our issue. We have one goal -- take Prime Minister Modi's face in the election and fight an election.

TMC has accused the Election Commission of succumbing to BJP's pressure and turning a blind eye to the election malpractices. What is your take on this?

Don't go by the words of Mamata Banarjee because it keeps changing. Her statements in 2011 and 2016 are not the same; now they are going in the opposite direction. Voters are against her. They are not with her. The Election Commission is honest and central forces have been deployed. In 2019, during the Lok Sabha election, she won with violence. But in 2021, the people have taken the decision to march ahead under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. 

He has shown the vision to develop West Bengal as 'Sonar Bangla'. He wants to address the issues of unemployment here and set up industries, ensure safety to women, give safety to farmers and want everyone to reap the benefit of the Ayushman Bharat (scheme). Education should reach all corners of West Bengal; the situation is very bad in this regard. The state should be rescued (from such a situation). 

She (Mamata Banerjee) is that type of chief minister where her statements keep changing and hence people have lost faith in her. Now people are openly coming out and making efforts to stop them (TMC). Their attitude of threatening voters to stay indoors is now being challenged by the public. You may have noticed in all the areas where voting happened. It was not a one-sided one. People have kept their struggle alive. Despite their (efforts) threats, the turnout of voters in the three phases is high and around 80 per cent. In the third phase, despite rowdyism and threats (by TMC), over 78 per cent voting (happened). This means the people are not scared and have decided to safeguard their democratic right.

What are the key issues on which this election is being fought? Besides Hindu-Muslim and 'syndicate', real issues related to governance and development are hardly finding traction...

No, not at all. Hindu-Muslim is not an issue (on which BJP is fighting). This is Mamata Banerjee's way. She has an issue with the 'Jai Shri Ram' slogan. They projected moulvis as Imams. How much budget did they give to Muslims? You have seen it. They were doing only appeasement and vote bank politics in the last ten years. Now the main issue in West Bengal is 'development'. Democracy is in danger (in West Bengal) and we want to save it. That is our target.

TMC claims it is waging a battle against outsiders like PM Modi and Amit Shah to save Bengal's culture. What do you have to say about that?

I term this as sheer madness and not anything else. Everyone knows that in any state when an election takes place, leaders from the centre and other states go (to campaign). Even Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi go (to campaign). Mamata Banerjee feels that those who cannot speak or understand the Bengali language are outsiders. What do we say when a democratically-elected woman leader says such things? It is sad she (Mamata) calls Narendra Modi and Amit Shah outsiders. This is the reason why she was termed as an outsider in Nandigram. During the election campaign, she went on screaming asking whether she was an outsider? People didn't like the way she addressed the Prime Minister as an outsider. She has gone mad. She has run out of words. People are wondering how they will manage for a few more days with such a person. We will have a new CM in a few days.

What is the BJP's 'Sonar Bangla' vision?

'Sonar Bangla' means (a place) where there is peace, where there is no political violence, where an unemployed person will get employment, where women can feel safe. The central schemes' benefits should reach everyone, including the downtrodden. Due to politics, West Bengal has been suffering for years. Our main aim is to free the state from this evil. That is 'Sonar Bangla' for us. The state which was one leading in many ways is coming down and we aim to review its position in all areas. That is our dream of 'Sonar Bangla'.

The TMC claims that the 'Sonar Bangla' is a mere slogan for BJP and cites the example of UP and Bihar to suggest that it has been unable to turn around these states. Your thoughts?

They don't have any idea and all the uneducated ones are talking like that. 'Sonar Bangla' is a slogan that is limited to West Bengal. We don't call it 'Sonar Gujarat' or 'Sonar UP'. We have already given a clarification many times. 'Sonar Bangla' means the development of West Bengal. For Gujarat's development, it (the slogan) was called 'Vibrant Gujarat' and for Uttar Pradesh, it was 'Vikas Shilp'. For different states, different slogans are given. They don't understand this and hence are shouting on top of their voices.

TMC claims that the BJP propped up Asaduddin Owaisi to cut votes that would have otherwise gone to the TMC. What is your assessment?

No one is saying that Asaduddin Owaisi is BJP's friend. In Lok Sabha sessions, he always opposes us. On all the issues, he argues with us. How can he help BJP? Everyone knows that (he is against BJP) and no one has any proof (to show Owaisi is BJP's friend, helping to divide votes)

What is your assessment of the Congress and Left alliance in the state?

They have been finished (Congress and Left). To save themselves, they have come together. Congress and the Left have joined hands with the most communal (party) ISF (Indian Secular Front of Abbas Siddiqui). For a grand old party like the Congress joining hands with such forces is shameful and condemnable. Left and Congress were arch-rivals. Now (they) forged an alliance with a communal party. Communists are finished in India, and so is the Congress. There is no scope for them.

How many seats is the BJP expecting to win in this elections?

We will get 200 seats and above. We are confident will form the government after May 2.