By Tirthankar Mitra
With panchayat elections inching closer, West Bengal unit of Bharatiya Janata Party received a wakeup call. For all the sound and fury spouted by the state saffron camp leaders, the organisational strength of the state BJP is nowhere in a state to give ruling Trinamool Congress a run for its money in next year’s rural polls.
Given the increasing number of activists dissociating themselves from the party, uncertainty looms large whether state BJP can field 24 lakh party workers to man 80,000 polling booths in the coming rural polls. The facts are not part of a canard campaign launched by Trinamool, Left or Congress but have surfaced at a recent BJP meeting in the national Capital.
A clash between veterans and new entrants to the state saffron camp is stated to be the reason behind activists detaching themselves from the saffron cause. A fact which looked the national leadership and it’s state counterpart in the face pointed out that the veterans now cooling their heels at home away from party programmes swore by the principles and policies of the BJP when it was far away from the seat of power.
The national BJP leadership seems to have reconciled itself to the fact that presence of activists who can ensure electoral malpractice at the grassroot level read the booths cannot be achieved in 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Putting up a brave face, state BJP chief, Sukanta Majumdar has said that a 30 member booth committee can be set up before the elections.
Majumdar has no other alternative as his silence would amount to acceptance of the thinning of his flock. With senior Trinamool leaders hinting that a signal from them would lead a mass desertion from the saffron camp, Majumdar is not in a position to admit an erosion of rank and file before rural polls.
Incidentally, the state BJP chief has left no clue as how to set up the booth committees of the numerical strength that he has promised. But some leaders taking a more realistic view of things feel the target of organisational strength is an achievable one in 2026 Assembly elections.
A complacent Trinamool leadership received a rude jolt in 2019 Lok Sabha elections when BJP candidates won in 18 constituencies. If the 2021 state Assembly elections are indication, the lost ground has been recovered by Trinamool led by chief minister, Mamata Banerjee at its head leading the campaign with a gammy leg.
Given the present state of things, the BJP leaders are apprehensive whether they can retain half the number of seats in which BJP nominees emerged victorious in 2018panchayat polls. With a slim chance of boosting the morale of party activists, an electoral downslide in West Bengal seems to be awaiting the saffron camp round the corner.
In what appears to bea kneejerk gesture, senior BJP leaders have spent the night in several constituencies listening to people’s grievances and expressed their “empathy” for the local people.
The second phase of third programme is scheduled to start in January. But political watchers of this state are sceptical of this game plan which they feel is going to be looked upon as cosmetic by the voters.
Emergence of a weak kneed state party organisation has been the upshot of the brainstorming session of the saffron camp at the national Capital. Grandiose plans of replacing the Trinamool dispensation have certainly been chalked out but they are yet leave the drawing board, is on finding which is jarring to the BJP is certainly music to TMC leadership’s ears.
The national leadership has asked it’s state counterpart to deploy party activists to zero in on individuals and request them for support. Of course, it has to have its reflection in the ballot box.
In the backdrop of the electoral reverses, the state BJP faced after Assembly polls, apart of the mass base it had in 2019, has shifted to Trinamool Congress. And the saffron camp can no longer look away from it.
Notwithstanding 17 parliamentary constituencies in its bag till date, the saffron camp in the state has realised that it will enter the electoral fray with its back to the wall. Given the present state of low morale and weak organisation of the state BJP unit, an expeditious political turnaround is not in sight for quite some time to come. (IPA Service)