Under attack from state leaders for not involving them in the election process in Bihar, the BJP leadership seems to be redrawing its blueprint for West Bengal, which will go to polls next year. However, the party will have to fight a fierce battle to be counted as a formidable alternative in the state.
BJP leaders admitted that the party, which had performed impressively in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Bengal, has lost the initial edge due to its “soft stance” towards the ruling Trinamool Congress. Another reason that has reportedly adversely affected the party’s prospects is its inability to project a strong leadership in the state.
Party leaders, who are familiar with developments in the state unit, said the strategy would be to address these two issues. “We have to rebuild credibility. Though there was some initial success, we lost the edge as there is an impression among people that BJP was getting closer to Trinamool… BJP’s attempts to get Trinamool’s support to pass the land acquisition Bill and GST in Rajya Sabha and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dhaka had triggered the belief that both parties are working together,” said a leader.“Besides, the party has not been able to put up a strong and attractive leadership,” he added.
The party said that the top leadership, including the Prime Minister and party national president Amit Shah, were “disappointed” that their initial choices — including Union minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo — have not been able to meet the expectations. “The party leadership had high hopes from him (Supriyo). But things did not work in the way the party leadership wanted,” said a leader.
On November 9, when Shah met the party’s Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya and co-observer Sidharth Nath Singh, he discussed the BJP’s immediate plans for the state and how to address these issues, sources said.
Insiders said that the party, along with the RSS and its affiliates, has already started working at the ground level. For one-and-a-half-months, BJP leaders have held several rounds of meetings in 294 constituencies of the state, said Singh. Following this, the party has categorised the constituencies into three categories — A, B and C — in terms of winnability. The parameters included organisation strength, strength of the Opposition, presence of disgruntled leaders, overall sentiments and local issues, among others. “The grading was done scientifically with meticulous planning and after a multi-layer assessment,” he said.
The West Bengal team, along with state party chief Rahul Sinha, also had a day-long brainstorming session with Shah on November 6.
Unlike initial plans, in which Shah was expected to address a public rally on November 30 — observed as Utthan Divas by the state BJP unit for the last seven years — the party has decided to conduct a “protest walk” and “jail bharao andolan” for a week beginning December 7.
“This will be held at the district level. Then the party chief will address two rallies — one in North Bengal and other in south Bengal in December,” said Singh. The rallies will be held after the winter session of the Parliament, which will conclude on December 23. The defeat in Bihar and the crisis triggered out of party veterans’ public attack on the current leadership seemed to have made the party change its plan of Shah addressing a rally in Kolkata on November 30.