New Delhi: Post the electoral debacle that the BJP faced in West Bengal, senior party functionaries who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, pointed out multiple reasons for the defeat, including the influence exercised by a coterie during the entire campaign, party tickets given for reasons other than the “winnability” factor by some people, parachuting of Delhi-based candidates and leaders, and overt sidelining of members of “Team Nadda” who belong to Bengal.
Senior leaders of the party have told The Sunday Guardian that the entire election campaign for the BJP was handled wrongly by a “coterie” of leaders which included BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh, national general secretary and Bengal observer Kailash Vijayvargiya, Arvind Menon, state general secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakraborty, former TMC leader and now BJP MLA, Suvendu Adhikari.
“These leaders were busy doing cosmetic campaigns for the party and had no concerns as to how the party was faring on the ground. They met at five-star hotels, had dinner and crafted campaigns which had little connection with the common Bengali masses. They were sitting away from reality. They just thought that by getting in some discarded TMC leaders they would be able to win Bengal elections. Several of us had repeatedly warned this coterie of the real ground situation of the party and how the TMC had initiated a very aggressive campaign, but they chose to ignore our inputs. Even the Delhi leadership sided with them,” a senior BJP leader from Bengal told The Sunday Guardian.
BJP leaders also raised questions about how Bengal leaders in the Central Committee like Anupam Hazra, who is national secretary of the BJP, Roopa Ganguly BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal, Tathagata Roy, senior BJP leader and former Governor and Raju Bista were not allowed to take part in any decision making related to the election and were “deliberately” kept at bay by the state leadership.
“The Central committee members from J.P. Nadda-ji’s team were made to sit out this election, none of them were even consulted, leave alone calling them for meetings. Some of these leaders have great insights on Bengal and understand Bengal’s politics very well, but the state leaders might have felt some threat from these leaders which is why they kept them away”, a central BJP leader told this newspaper.
These central committee members belonging to Bengal were therefore not seen in the election campaign.
Another BJP leader also started questioning the over dependence of the party on TMC defectors who had left the TMC just before elections in search of greener pastures. Fewer than 5 of the about 40 defector TMC MLAs, MPs who were given the ticket by the BJP, won. He said that these leaders were one of the biggest reasons that the BJP could not come to power in Bengal.
One BJP leader even termed this group of TMC leaders as “chartered flight gang” while referring to how TMC defectors like Rajib Banerjee, Baishali Dalmiya, Prabir Ghoshal and Rudranil Ghosh were brought to Delhi from Kolkata on an urgent basis to join the BJP by a chartered flight.
Some BJP leaders have also complained about how Amitava Chakraborty and Arvind Menon sidelined ground leaders from districts like Birbhum and North 24 Parganas which resulted in almost a total rout for the BJP in these two districts.
“Amitava Chakraborty and Arvind Menon were in charge of these two districts, and they overlooked local leaders from here who know the ground reality. These two leaders did not even know how to counter the strongman from Birbhum, Anubrata Mondal and they lost everything in Birbhum”, a senior BJP functionary from Birbhum told The Sunday Guardian.
Several senior BJP leaders from the state also raised questions about the distribution of tickets. They told The Sunday Guardian that massive malpractice took place.
Party insiders levelled allegations that some leaders in influential positions gave tickets for reasons other than the winnability factor to undeserving candidates.
A senior journalist based in Patna, who has decades old ties with a few top leaders of the BJP and functionaries in the RSS, had informed them about these damaging developments but apparently his inputs were ignored.
“Some leaders who were entrusted by Amit Shah and other Central leadership to distribute tickets to candidates gave them to undeserving candidates for their personal gain. The tickets were decided sitting in hotels and without taking feedback from the ground. Some tickets were distributed by our leaders just because they shared family and ‘personal’ relations and those candidates had nothing to do with the party till recently. For example, look at the ticket distribution in Kolkata, it was given at the behest of the topmost leadership in Bengal and every seat from Kolkata was lost,” a party insider told The Sunday Guardian.
“Half the district presidents that the BJP selected were not capable of being even booth presidents but they got the post because they were good at buttering the state president. Some of these presidents were even working in connivance with the TMC and I fail to understand how the ‘powerful’ feedback mechanism of the party could not gather this feedback. We have lost an election which was almost a done deal,” the party insider said.
He also questioned how the party’s much talked about feedback system failed in assessing the real strength of Suvendu Adhikari and kept believing that he was going to give 35-40 seats to the BJP. “The same was amplified by the Delhi electronic media who were acting like BJP people, adding to his profile”, he said.
He further added that reports in some newspapers, including The Sunday Guardian had at multiple occasions brought out the party’s drawbacks in the run up to the election campaign, but these findings were ignored.
Questions are now being raised about how the party parachuted some BJP candidates from Delhi to Bengal just months ahead of the elections and some of whom were even telling their close group of supporters that they were going to be made the Chief Minister of Bengal because of their self-claimed closeness to the party’s top leadership.
“Leaders like Swapan Dasgupta and Anirban Ganguly were brought to Bengal just two months before the elections, they had no idea about the politics in Bengal. They were like tourists and both were competing to become Chief Minister. Swapan Dasgupta was given one of our safest seats of Tarakeswar. He could not even win that. And Anirban Ganguly’s story is similar, what politics does he know? Just because one is a good academician does not mean he could be a good politician as well,” another Central BJP functionary told this newspaper.
BJP also could not conjure up a strategy to counter Mamata Banerjee’s “Insider vs outsider” narrative and it kept sending non-Bengali leaders to Kolkata. “The voter saw them as political tourists and could never connect to them,” the functionary said.