Many top Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders are keen to join the Bharatiya Janata Party but are not being able to do so as they don’t find the incumbent state BJP leadership “capable” enough to “protect” them in the current political situation in West Bengal, according to sources both in the BJP and the TMC.
With the central BJP leadership made aware of this situation, party’s national president Amit Shah has decided to give more attention to the state, from where he expects to win 22 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, party sources said. Shah is also planning to make West Bengal his temporary base and has plans to visit the state for a couple of days every month, sources added.
As a first step towards making his presence felt there, Shah conducted a massive rally in Kolkata on Saturday and raised the demand of maintaining a National Register of Citizens (NRC) by the state government, something which has been staunchly opposed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Despite emerging as the number two party in the state by virtue of its recent increase in vote shares, the BJP has failed to improve or expand much from what it has achieved so far because of the “weak” state leadership of the party.
Those who are calling for a complete overhaul of the state leadership give the example of how the Bengal unit leadership has asked the party’s winners in the panchayat elections to flee to neighbouring states like Jharkhand and Bihar to save their lives as they are allegedly being threatened by the TMC cadre.
Asked about how the party was doing in West Bengal, a top BJP leader from the state, who was in New Delhi for the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election, told The Sunday Guardian that “kuch nahin ho raha (nothing is happening)”. With the existing state leadership failing to take on Banerjee, Amit Shah has decided to monitor the developments in the state personally, he added.
Sources hinted that a change in the leadership and the composition of the state BJP is very much on the cards and the exercise would gather momentum once Shah “settled down” in Kolkata. The party leadership is also looking to “poach” TMC leaders who have a mass base and can help the BJP establish a much stronger presence in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.
“We are facing a shortage of credible faces in the party and hence we are in talks with certain leaders who command an extensive following in the state but are not happy with the functioning of Mamata Banerjee. These leaders have expressed their willingness to join the BJP if we are able to guarantee their security. As of now, West Bengal is perhaps the most important state for Shah electorally,” another top party leader told this newspaper.
Sources said that many TMC leaders looking to join the BJP are waiting for a specific assurance from the top BJP leadership that they will save them from Banerjee’s “vindictive attitude” and “strong arm tactics”, which they feel she will resort to once they join the saffron camp. One of the main reasons behind this scepticism, according to a TMC source, is the inaction of the Central agencies against some TMC leaders who have been named in multiple scams, despite having sufficient evidence against them.
According to state BJP leaders, the NRC issue is going to play a very important role in Bengal politics with the party getting inputs that the original inhabitants of the state, who number close to 8 crore, are unhappy with Banerjee for supporting the estimated 1 crore illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who have settled in the state.