New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struggling to stay apace with its political goals in West Bengal after its failure to secure victory in the Assembly polls that concluded nearly four weeks ago.
While fending off Trinamool Congress’ aggression, and watching pre-vote turncoats return to the ruling party, the state unit’s preliminary post mortem has identified a few culprits behind the loss.
Wrong ticket distribution was one. Sidelining state leaders in favour of ‘ineffective’ heavyweights from Delhi was another.
Moreover, they said, the Centre’s ‘Hindu national pride’ masterplan completely failed in front of Mamata Banerjee’s carefully chalked out ethos, the ‘Bengali asmita’ — or pride in Bengal’s regional identity.
The last nail in the coffin was, of course, the distasteful personal attack on Mamata Banerjee, leaders said. It further alienated voters, particularly women.
Ticket distribution and its fallout
Some leaders have already shot off letters to the Centre on the “mismanagement” in ticket distribution by a certain coterie.
They have named Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, Mamata’s former-favourite-now-rival Suvendu Adhikari, another heavyweight Trinamool leader and turncoat Rajib Banerjee, and the Centre’s men Shiv Prakash and Arvind Menon.
A BJP MP, who switched from Trinamool before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, told ThePrint: “Out of the 148 Trinamool defectors who got tickets, only six won. The rest were useless.”
This large influx of TMC leaders also angered grassroots BJP workers, who may have sabotaged the campaign to a certain degree, the MP said.
He also revealed the BJP had got some Left support in 2019 as both fought a ‘common enemy’ – the Trinamool Congress. “But this time, the said ‘common enemy’ had infiltrated BJP ranks. CPI(M) supporters, therefore, stayed away,” he said.
BJP’s Bengal vice-president Jayprakash Majumdar reiterated the party had paid a heavy price for accommodating so many defectors. “Why will people vote for the second copy when the original was present? We may have lost 25 lakh votes,” he said.
The anti-Centre sentiment also echoed in the words of another BJP MP. He said the transportation of Delhi-based commentators Swapan Dasgupta and Anirban Ganguly did not work. “One was projecting himself as a probable chief minister… both gave interviews, chaired meetings. But they knew nothing of the Bengali psyche,” he argued.
Dasgupta, however, said his role had been limited and that he had no say in ticket distribution.
BJP leader and former Tripura and Mizoram Governor Tathagata Roy has also tweeted his anguish about Delhi’s interference. He said “sitting atop Agarwal Bhavan of Hastings (the BJP’s election headquarters) and in 7-star hotels, they distributed tickets to incoming garbage from the Trinamool”.
He blamed the “KDSA (Kailash Vijayvargiya, Dilip Ghosh, Shiv Prakash and Arvind Menon)” for ignoring workers who have soldiered on since 1980. Where are they after the defeat, he asked, adding, “They are only drawing comfort from taking the tally to 77 from 3.”
Kailash-Dilip-Shiv-Arvind (KDSA) foursome have dragged the names of our respected Prime Minister and Home Minister through mud and have sullied the name of the biggest political party in the world. Sitting atop Agarwal Bhavan of Hastings (W Bengal BJP’s election headquarters)
— Tathagata Roy (@tathagata2) May 6, 2021
The central leadership has ticked off Roy for the outburst, forbidding him from airing his views in public.
Bishnupur MP and party Yuva Morcha head Soumitra Khan also ranted in a meeting last week, saying the leadership had failed to harness the potential of the youth wing. “Instead, leaders like Rajib Banerjee got prominence. He flew in chartered flights everywhere but failed to win his own seat,” Khan said at the meeting.
Wrong input by ABM, weak local organisation and money culture
Leaders said party president Amit Shah’s very own poll-consulting unit, the Association of Billion Minds (ABM), had completely misread the ground situation.
The team had the all-important job of surveying voter sentiment, giving feedback and inputs for candidate selection, and even managing rallies — the role that Prashant Kishore played for Mamata Banerjee.
But the “IT professionals based in the Capital” had misguided Amit Shah, a leader said. “Also, their slogan ‘Didi O Didi’ spectacularly backfired,” he said.
Another leader pointed out the BJP’s money power had actually harmed the party’s prospects. He said: “Cadres believe in a party ideology. That existed for the Left and the TMC. But in our case, the excess money drew in riffraff from everywhere. This alienated committed workers.”
BJP MLA from Asansol South, Agnimitra Paul, foresees a rough road ahead. “We can’t live in a fool’s paradise. We have to strengthen our booth and local-level strength before 2024. We can only counter TMC’s terror politics with a robust organisation,” she said.
Kailash Vijayvargiya did not want to go into the details of the loss. The party failed its own expectations, he said, stating that feedback was still pouring in from leaders. “Mamataji is a strong leader and women voted for her en masse. We shall do a deep dive soon. For now, we are concentrating on helping the Covid-affected and the victims of violence,” he said.