New Delhi: Mid-level Bharatiya Janata Party functionaries, individuals wrongly claiming closeness to RSS decision makers and heads of NGOs and other similar organisations, are making a beeline for poll-bound West Bengal in search of gullible, prospective ticket seekers who want to contest the May 2021 elections on the BJP ticket.

These individuals, by virtue of their claimed closeness to top BJP leaders and Union Ministers, a point which they seek to prove by sharing photographs with these leaders, are promising Assembly tickets to the seekers in lieu of “goodwill”.

A Central Delhi-based businessman, who hails from West Bengal, has paid Rs 50 lakh to a Delhi-based BJP functionary who has assured him that he will arrange a party ticket for him from one of the seats in the state’s Hooghly district.

Similar is the case with another party worker who has lost Rs 5 lakh, which he paid in instalments to an Arrah-based (Bihar) individual who has been touring Bengal to look for party workers who can be persuaded to deal with him to secure election tickets.

An investigation by The Sunday Guardian revealed that this man, who has made at least five trips to Bengal in the recent past, holds no post either in the RSS or the BJP, but is a master in the art of name dropping.

Another such individual, who has been visiting various parts of Bengal, works in an organisation that is working in close coordination with a Central ministry to stop human trafficking. This individual, who travels in the interiors of Bengal, has been charging Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for an Assembly ticket.

The speculation that the BJP will do well in next year’s Assembly elections—an understanding based on the response that its rallies have been getting and the party’s performance in the 2019 general elections—has led to an increase in the popularity of the party on the ground because of which, in a state where until recently it did not have too many ticket claimants, the party is now witnessing a surge in ticket seekers.

“There is no doubt that both BJP’s popularity and the anti-incumbency against Mamata Banerjee are very high in the state right now which is evident from the demand for BJP tickets. However, we request those who want to contest on our party symbol to follow the well-established system which is followed while finalising the candidates. Our party tickets, in any state, are allotted only after the credentials of the candidate are assessed through multiple levels, a decision in which the top leadership is also involved. No individual has got the authority to deny or allow the party ticket to anyone,” a BJP functionary, who is focusing on Bengal, told The Sunday Guardian.