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'Mission 2024': Bengal's political parties engage in 'battle of bookstalls' during Durga Puja

Political parties have used the platform of Durga Puja for years to propagate their ideology and policies to the people through bookstalls near pandals.

KOLKATA: When the country’s biggest festival of democracy — the Lok Sabha election — is around the corner, politics cannot be kept away from Bengal’s biggest religious festival, Durga Puja. Though political parties have used the platform of Durga Puja for years to propagate their ideology and policies to the people through bookstalls near pandals, the activities were seen more visible during this year's festival with the general elections inching closer. Though the Left parties, including the CPI(M), have traditionally stayed away from Puja committees, their bookstalls have been synonymous since 1952, with nearly 700 bookstalls set up across the state this Puja season.

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) also realised the importance of the outreach through bookstalls over the years and the party had the highest concentration of bookstalls across the state with 2,000 odd outlets, while the BJP also joined the literary outreach by setting up around 1,000 bookstalls across the state. The CPI(M) set up more than 150 bookstalls in Kolkata and 100 more in its adjoining districts. The National Book Agency, CPI(M)’s publishing house, has more than 250 of its own titles and hundreds of books from other publications. The bookstall at Jadavpur was inaugurated by Left Front chairman and CPI(M) veteran Biman Bose and the unit sold books amounting to over Rs 2 lakh. "Our focus was on the youth among the Puja crowd.

We have been doing this before anybody else, since 1952. For generations, the festival has been synonymous with the concept of out bookstalls," Anirudhha Chakrabarty, publisher of the agency. Meanwhile, Jago Bangla, the mouthpiece of TMC set up most of the ruling party's bookstall. "The aim was to reach the most number of people. The books written by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were the main attractions in the TMC’s bookstalls. Her new collection of poetry, Kabita, was among the top sellers at its stalls across the state this year," said a senior TMC leader.

However, the BJP had fewer stalls in South Bengal compared to the northern part of the state, the region which is considered the party’s stronghold. Most books at the stalls put up by the saffron camp were on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the history of the BJP and its connection with Bengal. "The popularity of Narendra Modi is high in Bengal. It was reflected in common people’s choice as they wanted to buy books on him. Spreading Hindutva ideology in Bengal was also our priority through the bookstalls," said a BJP leader. (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)