The emergence of INDIA, the alliance of 26 non-BJP parties ahead of the Lok Sabha election, has prompted the BJP leadership to bring the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh forward to prepare the party in Bengal for the next year's big poll battle.
A source in the party said that it has been decided that the RSS top brass will hold an organisational meeting in Calcutta on August 18 and 19 for a roadmap on how to take on Trinamul in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The meeting will be attended by RSS members and some senior BJP leaders.
"A meeting was held in Delhi on Monday where RSS leaders like Arun Kumar, a joint general secretary, and senior leader Pradip Joshi took stock of the Panchayat poll results in Bengal in the presence of state unit leaders like chief Sukanta Majumdar, the leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, the state general secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakraborty.... It was decided that the takeaways from this meeting would be followed up in the organisational meeting on August 18 and 19 in Calcutta to prepare for the Lok Sabha polls," said the source.
According to him, the decision to bring the RSS to the forefront is to counter Mamata, who is spearheading the INDIA's assault on the saffron ecosystem.
The two-day meeting is likely to be attended by leaders like Kumar, Joshi and Sunil Ambekar, the RSS national chief of publicity.
According to a BJP insider, the RSS brass is worried about the BJP's performance in the recent rural polls in which it won over 11,000 seats across the three tiers of the panchayat.
Although the state BJP unit dubbed its performance a success, the party's vote share fell from 38 per cent in the 2021 Assembly polls to around 24 per cent in the 2023 panchayat polls.
"In 2021, the whole state went to polls. Whereas this year it was just the panchayats. So, the comparison could be unjust. But, we believe the poor results in north Bengal and the Jungle Mahal (four districts comprise Jungle Mahal) account for the dip in vote share," an RSS leader told this newspaper.
The districts to the north of the Bhagirathi and those constituting the Jungle Mahal have been traditional bastions of the BJP since 2019 when it secured 18 Lok Sabha seats. The RSS played a vital role in influencing ST and SC communities in these districts to back the BJP.
In 2019, 12 of the 13 seats across these two regions were bagged by the BJP. In 2021, the BJP won 30 out of the 54 Assembly seats in north Bengal. It stumbled a little in Jungle Mahal but won 13 of the 35 seats.
Two years later in 2023, BJP won only 19 per cent of the rural poll seats in these two regions. Of the 23,546 total seats in these districts, BJP won only 4,459.
"Our leadership believes that we can reverse this trend by focusing on identity politics. We need to work more with the Rajbanshis, the Gorkhas, the Matuas and other ST and SC communities in order to regain lost ground," a BJP source said, adding that the two-day meeting in August will focus on how to use identity politics for political gains.
The source said the central leadership of the BJP and RSS is unhappy with junior Union minister John Barla and Alipurduar MP, who is likely to be removed as minister..
The RSS meeting in August is also likely to focus on how to divide the Muslim vote bank in Bengal to corner Mamata.
"We need to come up with newer ways to divide the Muslim vote, otherwise things will be difficult for us," an RSS leader said.
A spokesperson for the south Bengal unit of the RSS, Biplab Roy, admitted to the meeting in August but claimed it was only a training programme.
"Not only leaders from Bengal, those from Odisha, Sikkim, and Andaman will also join it," Roy said.
The BJP legislative party has decided to push for a resolution against the government in the Assembly as part of its attempt to show the Mamata government in poor light on women's safety issues. The resolution will demand discussion on the recent crimes against women in Bengal, including the incident in Malda. Another resolution will be tabled by the BJP MLAs on Thursday demanding discussion on the alleged deterioration of Bengal's law and order.
Meeting with Shah
BJP Bengal leaders Sukanta Majumdar, Suvendu Adhikari, Amitava Chakraborty and others met Union home minister Amit Shah on Tuesday night in Delhi.