Upping the ante, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah will hold a rally in Kolkata on 11 August amid clear indications from his party leaders that they will make the alleged presence of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in West Bengal a poll issue and seek an Assam-like NRC there.
With Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee holding talks in the national capital with opposition leaders to take on the BJP over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Shah's proposed rally underscores his intention to build the issue as a major poll plank in her state as Lok Sabha elections are barely eight months away.
A combative Shah earlier told reporters that he would definitely go to Kolkata on 11 August and dared the state government to arrest him after his party leaders claimed that the local police had yet not given permission to his event.
However, Kolkata police later said it had granted the permission, setting the stage for a showdown between the Trinamool Congress, the dominant political force in the state, and the BJP, which has emerged in recent polls as the main challenger to it but remains a distant second.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told reporters that there could be over one crore illegal immigrants in West Bengal and suggest that NRC should be adopted in border states to identify them.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh had earlier said that NRC will be published, on the lines of the one in Assam, if the saffron party was voted to power in the state.
Shah has targeted win in 22 of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the next Lok Sabha polls. In 2014, the TMC had won 34 seats while the BJP could get only two.
The prevailing sense in the BJP is that it could project Banerjee as an "anti-Hindu" leader driven by her "appeasement politics" for minority votes over her strident opposition to the NRC, according to party sources.
Shah will address a rally being organised by its youth wing, Yuva Morcha.
Earlier, BJP Yuva Morcha alleged that they are yet to receive any communication from the Kolkata Police regarding permission for Shah's rally.
The TMC took a swipe at the BJP and Shah, claiming that they had become nervous and wished them "happy journey to the land of peace and harmony".
“Some unwarranted speculation in social media about denial of permission to a political party on 11 August has come to our notice. It is to clarify that on request permission for meeting has already been granted,” the Kolkata Police said in a tweet.
State BJP Yuva Morcha chief Debjit Sarkar said he has been informed by the police that the permission has been given to hold the rally at Mayo Road in the heart of the city.
Sarkar had earlier told PTI that the organisation has submitted a formal application to the police, seeking permission for Shah's rally.
"BJP & its national President have become nervous, tense. Their programme for Aug 3 in Kolkata was promptly granted permission. For their Aug 11 program, they only just sent a letter & permission granted." (sic), TMC chief national spokesperson Derek O'Brien said.
"Happy journey to the land of peace and harmony #Bangla Love Your Neighbour", he said in a tweet.