‘Politics of display—leaders appearing on TV, doing road shows—is not helping build the party organisation’.
New Delhi: A series of informal meetings between top state leaders from West Bengal BJP that took place in the last week of December in Kolkata has brought out the problems that the party is facing in the state. These include lack of organizational capacity in majority of districts, missing booth infrastructure, the habit of senior leaders to focus on damaging each other rather than the ruling TMC and the anger among the mid- and lower-level party workers over the indiscriminate joining of TMC leaders into the BJP.
These challenges, according to people who were present during these deliberations, have been shared with Home minister Amit Shah by the state leadership as they do not want to be held responsible in the future for a possible poll debacle in May when the state goes to poll.
According to a senior leader who was present in the meeting, the party “would not even win” 100 seats if these challenges are not tackled urgently.
“The focus of the top state leadership is mostly on doing road shows that gather media attention, which makes them a ‘big’ leader and leads to stone pelting from the TMC cadre, but such politics of ‘display’ is not helping in building the organization. In many places we do not have enough cadre to manage the booth, yet our leaders are more focused on appearing on TV and doing road shows and securing a position for them in the national and state committee,” a senior BJP leader, who is among the top five state leaders, is understood to have told his colleagues while expressing his anguish over the focus of his colleagues on “display” politics rather than going to districts and building organization.
According to inputs gathered by The Sunday Guardian, another top leader had raised the “handicap” that the BJP was facing when it comes to Muslim votes. The leader categorically said that unless a “moderate” number of Muslim voters support the BJP, the party’s bid to upstage the TMC would become very difficult, if not impossible.
The concern raised by this leader is probably derived from the fact that West Bengal has the largest share of Muslim population in India after Jammu and Kashmir and Assam. As per the 2011 census, Muslims accounted for 27% of the total state population. As per data, the Muslim population is not uniformly distributed in the state. The Muslim voters are present in large numbers in Central, North and South Bengal. The two Muslim majority districts, Murshidabad (66% Muslim population) and Maldah (51%), are in the Central and North Bengal regions, respectively. Almost 50% of the population in Uttar Dinajpur that lies in North Bengal is Muslim. However, the Muslim voters have little presence in the hills and Jangalmahal regions.
This top leader also raised the issues of how the party has stopped focusing on strengthening the organization while just depending on the “Centre’s” help by way of visits of top leaders and the assurance that the elections will be conducted very “strictly” by the Election Commission of India to minimize the possibility of booth capturing and poll related violence.
“The state leadership and other ‘big’ leaders are not concerned about issues like weak and non-existent organization in many districts and the fact that in many districts booth level activity is almost non-existent now. Everyone is focusing on getting a position. We did well in 2019 because we started focusing on booths months before the election; this time such exercise has still not started,” the leader is reported to have said.
He also raised the issue of grievances that he was receiving from mid-level and block level leaders over TMC leaders joining the BJP. These mid-level leaders, according to him, have threatened to “sit at home” if such TMC leaders, who till days ago were harassing them, are taken into the BJP fold.