BJP wants reconstructed gameplan before rural outreach hits streets against Mamata Banerjee in Bengal

The BJP central leadership is convinced that only Suvendu Adhikari has the experience of leading an issue-based campaign focusing on the SSC scam and the rampant corruption by the TMC compared to other state party leaders

The central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party is of the opinion that the Bengal BJP should pull up their socks and launch a state-wide campaign against the Mamata Banerjee government. The party’s central leadership has also expressed their displeasure with the state of affairs in the Bengal BJP unit in the aftermath of the alleged School Service Commission scam-related arrests.

This prompted Union home minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda to meet with top Bengal BJP officials and proposed a significant revision to the strategy for taking on the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.

The School Service Commission scam has unmasked Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in Bengal. This scam and the arrest of Partha Chatterjee, the former cabinet minister and close lieutenant of Mamata Banerjee, have opened up a new gate of opportunity for the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, the party hasn’t done much to capitalise on the public’s growing ire at the Mamata Banerjee administration.

What did Amit Shah And JP Nadda tell Bengal BJP leaders?

This week, home minister Amit Shah met with the leader of the opposition in the Bengal legislative assembly and senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. In the same line, BJP president JP Nadda met with Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar. The state BJP leaders informed that Home Minister Amit Shah is focused on launching a mega protest against the TMC dispensation. According to reports, he also reportedly questioned Adhikari about his opinions on Mamata Banerjee’s likely course of action in such a situation as an opposition leader.

The Bengal BJP leaders informed that Shah also expressed his displeasure with the growing infighting, idleness, and lack of a game plan to take on Mamata Banerjee in the aftermath of the SSC scam. According to sources, both Shah and Nadda stressed the importance of capitalising on the anger and sentiments of ordinary people in relation to the scam. Sources also stated that both Shah and Nadda have flagged that the Bengal BJP has only organised a few limited protest marches against the issue. They have also presented a primary plan of action to reconstruct the party’s plan to fight the upcoming panchayat and Loksabha elections.

Specific focus on rural outreach in Bengal

In 2023, Bengal will witness Panchayat polls. In the aftermath of the SSC scam, the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party wants the Bengal unit to mobilise rural voters. The rise of the Bengal BJP happened from 2016 onwards in Bengal. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP did the best, and their performance was excellent in rural Bengal.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP received around 42.8 per cent of the vote in the rural constituencies. According to political analysts, the reason behind the BJP‘s significant performance in the Bengal Lok Sabha election was its good performance in the rural areas. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won around 18 seats out of 42.

However, the situation started to change from the 2021 Bengal assembly elections. After the historic victory of Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in the assembly elections, the saffron party witnessed significant setbacks in the rural areas. Following the Bengal assembly elections in 2021, the BJP fared poorly in all local elections and by-elections.

A senior Bengal BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity, «The central leadership wants the party to start its groundwork from the rural parts of Bengal. The current SSC scam has offended people of Bengal from all walks of life, but those from lower socioeconomic levels are particularly wounded because these financial scams adversely impact them.»

Focus on issue-based campaigns

The Bengal BJP leaders observed that the central leadership has pointed out the need for issue-based campaigns. Partha Chatterjee has been in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for more than a week, but the state BJP hasn’t been able to capitalise on a sensitive subject like teacher recruitment corruption. The BJP hasn’t made any attempts to rally support in rural regions until now, with the exception of a few inconsequential protests in Kolkata and the suburbs.

According to the sources, the central leadership has suggested that all the 71 MLAs, 16 MPs and other leaders should organise protest rallies, marches, street corners and even door-to-door campaigns starting from the rural areas of the state keeping in mind the panchayat elections.

Until now the Bengal BJP was majorly dependent on macro issues like the poor state of the economy, not allowing central schemes by the state, alleged post-poll violence and so on. From now on the key focus of the BJP will be on corruption by the TMC, SSC scam, cut money, protection of corrupt leaders, failure to provide jobs to rank holders, and betrayal of the poor by the Mamata Banerjee government.

More importance to the leadership of Suvendu Adhikari

Party sources informed that the central leadership of the BJP has expressed their displeasure over the current organisational condition of the Bengal unit. After the defeat in the 2021 Bengal Assembly elections, the party has witnessed several defections. Many leaders who joined the party before the elections from the TMC have returned, and this condition has hurt the organisation.

The party is also suffering from growing discontent within the leadership and infighting. After the 2021 Bengal Assembly elections, the central leadership removed Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh and appointed Sukanta Majumdar as the new chief. This created a lot of tussles within the party.

Political observers in Bengal believe that by meeting only the Leader of the Opposition, Shah has sent a strong message to the party. Similarly, the party insiders informed that the central leadership of the BJP believes that to launch an issue-based campaign and to mobilise the people of Bengal on the SSC scam, the party will need the experience of Adhikari more than the traditional BJP leaders.

Suvendu Adhikari was one of the closest lieutenants of Bengal’s chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. He also spearheaded the Nandigram campaign along with Mamata Banerjee, which resulted in the defeat of the 35-year Left rule. A senior BJP leader from Bengal said, «The central leadership believes that only Suvendu Adhikari has the experience of leading such a massive mass movement. This is why the revised game plan to launch an issue-based campaign focusing on the SSC scam and the rampant corruption by the TMC will need him more than others.»

The author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre. He tweets as @sayantan_gh. Views expressed are entirely personal.

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