BJP does Lok Sabha polls rerun before Bengal civic polls
If you reside in any of the 100-odd towns or cities in Bengal where civic polls will be held this summer, you might receive an anonymous call asking you to contest for the BJP.
A person at the other end of the line would crosscheck your name, address and profession with the data available with him.
Next might come an offer for you to fight the polls. Or, you might be asked to identify someone you would like as your candidate.
In what is being interpreted as the central BJP leadership’s lack of faith in the state unit, the party has — like for the general election in 2019 — engaged a private agency to conduct a survey to zero in on the candidates before the civic polls in Bengal.
The agency’s personnel have already started making random calls to citizens across the state to try and map the electorate’s mind, a rerun of process it had followed for the Lok Sabha polls.
“This is an important indicator of the central leadership’s doubts in the state leadership’s judgement. Victories in 18 Lok Sabha seats and leads in 121 Assembly segments last summer did not do much to change the opinion, apparently,” said a BJP insider.
“For instance, the list of candidates for the all-important Calcutta Municipal Corporation elections will have to be sent to the central committee for examination before it is declared,” he added.
Although Union home minister Amit Shah and the BJP’s general-secretary (organisation), B.L. Santosh, asked the state unit to go ahead with the preparation of its list of candidates, a parallel file of names will be drawn up by the agency. Both the lists will be consulted before the candidates are finalised.
“We were asked to set up election committees in all wards of every civic body. That will be completed by Thursday,” said a Bengal BJP leader.
“These panels will each prepare a list of potential candidates, which will be sent to the district committees. The lists will then be forwarded to the state headquarters,” he said, adding that all those efforts could be in vain if the names did not match those of the agency.
Several state BJP office-bearers still recall a “dreadful” evening last year when they had met Shah — who was the BJP national president then — to finalise the list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. Many of the names suggested for the 42 seats in Bengal were rejected outright as Shah proposed new candidates on the basis of the survey. The new names had not even been considered by the state leadership.
“Several names were dropped, new names were added. Many candidates, although selected, were shifted to other constituencies. Everything was attributed to the agency and its survey. Their winnability assessment was deemed supreme,” said a source.
“At the end, most of the 18 seats won by the party in Bengal turned out be those suggested by the survey, which were finalised by Shah,” he added.
Several sections in the state BJP said the central leadership was also aware that with over 5,000 civic seats this time, the party would struggle to find suitable candidates for all of them.
“At the moment, we do not have over 5,000 people whom we can readily field for civic polls,” said a state BJP functionary.
“In elections to local bodies, people often make voting decisions on the basis of how they feel about the candidate and not the party. We still need to find enough people who are liked and respected in their respective wards,” he said, adding that Santosh had at a meeting on Sunday stressed the need to find familiar faces in the wards.