New Delhi, The BJP is certainly ambitious and more so in the run up to the elections in West Bengal where it has always faced the ignominy of organisational weaknesses.
The story of this eastern state at least since 2011 has been the story of Mamata Banerjee but over the last two years, the saffron party has been working hard and has now set a target of 22 plus seats out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats.
Electorally, West Bengal is the third largest state – after 80 seats from Uttar Pradesh and 48 in Maharashtra.The saffron party, which is now expected to release its first list of candidates on Tuesday, has alleged that the Trinamool Congress regime has made a mess of governance.
In fact, BJP lawmaker and Union Minister Babul Supriyo’s theme campaign song ‘Phutbey ebar Padda ful, Bangla Chharo Trinamool’ (Time for Lotus in Bengal now, it is time for pack up for TMC) has spread like viral on social media – chiefly after a police FIR has been filed by Trinamool Congress.
A senior party leader says, “The BJP target is more than the vote share and the seats. This year, as the BJP will win in Bengal and Mamata Banerjee will lose out more than a dozen seats, the Trinamool will actually lose out not only electorally but also morally”.
The BJP leaders say the decade old argument that Bengali voters will not endorse a ‘Hindi party which is wedded to right Hindu chauvanism’ will be proved wrong this time. To strengthen this argument, they cite Tripura outcome in March 2018.
According to senior West Bengal BJP leader Rahul Sinha, so much is the ‘mess’ of governance that today polls will be held in the state in seven phases. “We are in a resurgent mood and once our candidates names come out, see how things will start falling at place in Bengal,” Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP in charge of West Bengal, told agencies.
West Bengal BJP leaders also say that understanding the dynamics and complexities of the Mamata Banerjee-ruled state has become all the more important now than ever before especially in the context of the ensuing polls and its importance.
The underlining refrain is — BJP is desperate for additional seats in Bengal and the logic is simple – more the merrier. In retrospect, the saffron party leaders feel the Sharada chit fund scam did make a dent in the credibility of the Ms Banerjee-regime and this was only compounded by her going out of the way to please Muslim voters.
Thus, according to a key leader Mukul Roy, a strong anti-Mamata political atmosphere has been created.
BJP leaders admit this factor is not working for them in neighbouring Odisha.“We do have an ambitious plan in Odisha also, at least for Lok Sabha polls, but Naveed Patnaik has not done anything to displease Hindu voters,” says one party leader who is actually involved in electioneering in both the states.
It is on this backdrop, new entrant to the BJP Arjun Singh, a four-time MLA of Trinamool, says: “I felt hurt and so did hundreds of our workers at Barrackpore when Mamata Banerjee spoke wildly against the country’s security forces after the Modi government ordered aerial strike against Pakistan”.
Admittedly for the BJP; the fact that Bengali voters have remained “pro-Left” ideologically, culturally and intellectually have often made things difficult for the organisational drive.
“We do not say we have achieved the ultimate. But we have started making difference ideologically. The BJP vote share in West Bengal has been increasing gradually,” says a key party leader working closely with party chief Amit Shah.
Many say, the saffron party leaders have drawn out a few specially worked out electoral strategies to capture the minds of voters.
Thus, displaying yet another departure from BJP’s known politics of Temple and hardline Hindutva issues – as was done with all the machinations successfully in Uttar Pradesh – for Bengal and also in Tripura last year – the saffron party leaders are more talking about mundane issues – jobs, women safety, law and order chaos, development and industrialisation.
On this backdrop, BJP poll strategists say – in a vibrant democracy and diverse electorate, one cannot have uniform poll plans. The election process actually throws up opportunities for sizing up the polity. It does a reality check.
Thus, according to a senior leader, the parameters of this check have to differ greatly in each state. But when it comes to West Bengal, well these will be major acid tests for the popularity of both Narendra Modi and also Mamata Banerjee’s programs and policies.
On this, they cite BJP’s handling of north east and Goa.The BJP won the support of Christians in Goa in 2012 and also in 2017, they say – helping them ultimately to form government.