The BJP on Wednesday appointed Sunil Bansal, who played a key role in the party’s victories in Uttar Pradesh since 2014, as national general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana — three Opposition-governed states the party is paying special focus on for 2024.
The development comes a day after key NDA ally JD(U) parted ways, leaving BJP’s electoral calculations jittery in politically crucial Bihar.
Bansal, general secretary (organisation) in UP since 2014, will be replaced by Dharampal, who has been party’s secretary (organisation) in Jharkhand, according to a statement by BJP general secretary Arun Singh.
Incidentally, both Dharampal and Bansal have ABVP backgrounds. Belonging to Bijnor district of western UP, Dharampal had joined the Sangh’s students’ front in 1990 as a full-time worker and was ABVP joint zonal organisation secretary for UP and Uttarakhand.
The party stated that Karamveer has been appointed as BJP’s Jharkhand unit general secretary. He was BJP joint-general secretary (organisation) in UP earlier.
In West Bengal, Bansal replaced Kailash Vijayvargiya as BJP general secretary in charge of the state — he replaced Tarun Chugh in Telangana and D Purandeswari in Odisha.
Born in Rajasthan, Bansal, 52, has been with RSS since his student days. He was handpicked by Home Minister Amit Shah while preparing the 2014 Lok Sabha poll strategy for UP. Before that, Bansal was an RSS pracharak.
Known to be close to Shah, his elevation in BJP is expected to make him a significant power centre in the organisation.
The role of general secretary (organisation), or sangathan mahamantri, is considered crucial in any BJP unit, as these leaders are RSS appointees in the party. The party's general secretary (organisation) is supposed to play the key role of a communicator between the Sangh and the government of any state where BJP is in power — all this while being a part of the party and the government’s core group.
Sources in BJP said that appointing Bansal in states where the party is eyeing to increase its tally in 2024 is an “acknowledgment” of the top leadership’s trust in him. Equally, they averred, it is a “big challenge” for him.
To compensate for the prospective losses in Bihar after JD(U)’s exit — the NDA had won 39 of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 — BJP will have to ensure that Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Telangana contribute much to its tally. “Bansal will have to deliver in at least two of the states he is given charge of, because it is very important for BJP to gain more seats from these states to retain its dominance in national politics,” a former BJP general secretary said.
Sources said although Bansal was keen to leave UP to come to the national level, his shadow will remain in the state BJP organisation, as he has “already built deep networks and connections” there.
The decision to move Bansal from UP was on expected lines after this year’s Assembly poll results, as sources said communication between the Yogi Adityanath-led government and Bansal has been far from smooth for long.
While a section of BJP leaders argued that Bansal’s exit will give Adityanath more legroom to exercise consolidate his influence, one leader pointed out that the central leadership has put the UP CM “in check” by replacing Swatantra Dev Singh, considered close to Adityanath, with Keshav Prasad Maurya as Leader of the House in state legislative council. Both Singh and Maurya are Deputy CMs, but Maurya, a prominent OBC leader, is known for his differences with Adityanath.
Bansal’s elevation is also seen as a sign of Shah’s continuing grip over the party organisation. “Its an admission that the organisation trusts those who are hand-picked by Shah to deliver in critical states,” said the leader quoted above. That the party leadership is giving him charge of three states considered crucial for BJP in 2024 also shows that the party does not have many senior hands experienced with election strategies, a BJP leader said.
Vijayvargiya, credited with building the BJP organisation in West Bengal, where he has been the BJP in-charge since 2015 and delivered 18 seats in Lok Sabha and 70-plus seats in Assembly polls, has not been visiting the state due to the cases initiated against him by the ruling Trinamool Congress.