BJP leaders in Bengal didn’t miss the chance on Thursday to celebrate the party’s victory in the Gujarat Assembly polls for the seventh time in a row, but many functionaries in the Bengal unit of the saffron camp were wondering if any gain would accrue to the party in Bengal from the landslide in the western state.
Following the tradition of celebrating the success of the party in other states, BJP insiders recollected the celebrations at 6 Muralidhar Sen after the party’s victory in Bihar (in 2020), as an ally of the JD(U), and in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, and Uttarakhand in March 2022, when sweets were distributed at the party headquarters and leaders burst crackers and bathed in saffron colours.
Not just the similar scenes were witnessed in the BJP office, several state leaders — like party LA and general secretary Agnimitra Paul and the party’s chief whip in the Assembly Manoj Tigga — came up with the tall claims that the “stupendous success” would result in collateral gains in Bengal in the upcoming panchayat polls as the party rank would feel energised with the Gujarat outcome.
The ambitious sound bytes in public, however, failed to drown several questions that party insiders asked referring to the state of organisational affairs in the Bengal unit of the BJP.
“Panchayat polls are only a few months away and there is very little preparation on the ground... Hope, our leaders will realise that we cannot pass the Bengal test with the Gujarat glory,” said a BJP MLA.
While explaining the significance of the Gujarat triumph, Paul rolled out statistics — like the Congress record of bagging 149 seats under the leadership of Madhav Singh Solanki in 1985 — to stress the invincibility of the party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Notwithstanding the celebratory mood in the saffron camp, some party leaders, while speaking to this correspondent on the condition of anonymity, reminded that the target of strengthening booth-level organisation in south Bengal, an agenda taken up at least two years ago, still remained a work-in-progress.
“Moreover, people who have been appointed as chiefs at the districts, mandals, or booths in most parts of south Bengal are unequipped to establish and maintain a robust organisation. This bottleneck is felt in the party, but is brushed under the carpet,” said a source.
Elaborating on the crisis, a state committee member of the party said that while it was mandated by state-unit chief Sukanta Majumdar to hold local conferences at panchayat levels throughout the month of December, the programme is yet to begin due to organisational inabilities.
“It was mandated that at least 1000 people should turn up at the local conference. How will that happen in south Bengal when we don’t have enough booth-level workers here? Where do we bring these 1000 people from?” this source said.
Speaking to journalists Paul expressed her optimism that now that the Gujarat polls are over she was hopeful that the central unit of the party will focus on Bengal. Her statement prompted the critical section of the party to ask how long the party would remain dependent on leaders from Delhi, many of whom didn’t have a proper understanding of Bengal and the sense and sensibilities of the people in the state.
Though Paul was waxing eloquent about the invincibility of the Modi-Amit Shah duo, she was evasive on questions on how the Congress secured a majority in the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls and her party could win only one of the six by-polls where elections were held on December 5. A
BJP MLA said: “Whom are we fooling? Himachal is the home state of Naddaji (BJP’snational chief JP Nadda). A loss there is of course embarrassing.”