By Tirthankar Mitra
Window dressing is going places. It has travelled from the confines of the books of accounts to the ranks of the saffron brigade in West Bengal which have been allegedly inflated to impress the BJP top brass, according to sources in state BJP.
But the leaders to impress whom the number of activists attending some of the party rallies were allegedly fudged have smelt a rat, it was learnt. Though the wrong doers have not yet been rapped over the knuckles, the powers that be in the saffron camp have sought more accurate projection of organisational strength in West Bengal.
Senior leaders like party chief JP Nadda and Union home minister, Amit Shah were surprised to find thinly attended meetings they have recently addressed in the state. National level leaders of the principal Opposition party in the state that they are, Nadda and Shah had naturally expected sizeable crowds in their recent rallies. But vacant spaces greeted Nadda at his Ramnagar rally. The crowd size belied expectations at Shah’s Suri meeting too
Comparing notes, the duo was surprised to find reports from the state unit which stated that the local leaders rallies held earlier at these spots witnessed capacity crowds. The quantum of the crowd at the central leaders meetings being far less than those attending rallies of state level leaders presented a picture of mismatch as if the popularity of national level leaders including Shah and Nadda have overnight dipped vis-a-vis their state counterparts.
After all, a significant portion of the crowd ought to have come to satisfy its curiosity value. Shah’s earlier rallies at Purbasthali in Burdwan was also marked by a thin crowd. The rallies are scheduled at places where the saffron outfit is stated to have a support base. The spots of the meeting were earmarked by local leaders with the expanse of the support base stated to be the reason of their choice.
Reports placed before central leadership of BJP from this state have painted a robust picture of the grassroot organisation. Given the impressive performance of 2019 Lok Sabha elections and though 2021 Assembly poll results were not quite up to the mark, there appeared to be no reason to question the veracity of the latest figures in terms of attendance of the rallies.
After all, Mandal, an organisational unit of the BJP hierarchy sends the report to the district unit, which in its turn sends it to respective state units. Now a move is afoot in state BJP not to send these reports to the central leadership sans a second look.
Such evaluation with its checks and balances are to be accompanied by still photographs and video clippings. The large crowds at the rally of the local leaders followed by thin ones at the meetings of national leaders have sent a confusing message to the party’s central leadership.
It has been stated in no uncertain terms to the state leadership that senior leaders are loath to be stepping on thin ice after the impression given to them that it is hard rock. Given the schedule of more frequent visits of the senior leaders for the poll campaign of panchayat and Lok Sabha election, greater accuracy is expected from the reports of organisational strength at the grassroot level, it was pointed out.
As for the people flocking to BJP leaders rallies in lesser number, the reason is not far to see, according to a senior Trinamool Congress leader. The saffron unit has lost momentum after its 2021 poll debacle and the process is continuing, he added.
The people who felt that the Trinamool dispensation is on its way out are having second thoughts now, the TMC leader said. These prospective BJP supporters are either inactive now or are attending our party meetings, he said.
With little time left to rejig the grassroot organisation before rural polls and next year’s crucial Lok Sabha elections, the saffron camp leaders are resorting to cosmetic measures to display their proximity to the Bengali psyche. Union home minister, Amit Shah’s visit to Kolkata on the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore’s 175th birth anniversary is a case in point.
Known for his earlier gaffe that Tagore was born in Birbhum, Shah visited the Jorasanko home of Asia’s first Nobel laureate and attended a cultural programme in the evening. The jostle and fisticuffs for free passes to the cultural soiree he attended at Science City auditorium presented a portrait of indiscipline of the state BJP unit which is not at all an ideal launching pad for a widespread agitation against the Trinamool dispensation in the state. (IPA Service)