‘The national leadership is not interested in the state and Vijayvargiya is just waiting to be relieved of his present responsibility’.
New Delhi: Central observer for BJP for West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya last went to the state more than one year ago, in May 2021 when the Assembly election results were announced. Since then, two party Member of Parliament (MPs) with the latest being MP from Barrackpore, Arjun Singh and six MLAs, have joined the TMC. Vijayvargiya was appointed as the observer in July 2015, and the state has so far seen two Assembly elections (2016, 2021 and one general election—2019—under his watch). By multiple accounts of party leaders, this development has never happened before—of the state in-charge not visiting the state even once in more than one year.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to Vijayvargiya for a response on his prolonged absence from Bengal. His official staff said that he was out of the country and would be back after eight days. Messages sent on his WhatsApp number and email address did not generate any response till the time the story was sent to print.
Though the BJP publicly maintains that it has done well in the state- by increasing its MLA tally from 3 seats that it got in the 2016 polls to 77 seats, which as of today stands decreased to 71 seats due to defections, internally, state BJP leaders agree that the May 2021 poll result came as a surprise to them because as per the assessment that were shared by all relevant party leaders who were responsible for the election and “independent” analysis by media and other agencies, the BJP was going to emerge as the largest single party in the state.
The fact that this assessment did not transform into a reality has damaged the party significantly with many of its leaders joining the TMC with many more in line to do the same. In the 2014 polls, the BJP won 18 Lok Sabha seats; however, two of its MPs, including Babul Supriyo and Arjun Singh, have now joined the TMC. At least three more are waiting for an opportune time to leave the party.
Both these leaders, unlike many existing BJP MPs from the state, have a significant following on the ground and had not won on their respective seats just due to the “Modi wave”. The primary reason for this loss of faith in the party’s ability to win in 2026 or improving on its performance of May 2019, thereby leading to exodus in the party ranks (Six MLAs, two MPs), is the perception that BJP will find it hard to bounce back from the 2021 loss amidst the popularity of TMC led by Mamata Banerjee who has already groomed Abhishek Banerjee to take over the party reigns when the time comes.
This narrative has gained more strength on the ground as leaders like Vijayvargiya have lost interest in the party’s affair and have made no effort to play the role that was assigned to them. Since May 2021, the state BJP has seen defection of MPs, MLAs, councilors, booth workers, change of state president, other functionaries—during none of these events Vijayvargiya was present in Kolkata.
Interestingly, the BJP, though it has changed many state observers and in-charge in the last one year, has left Vijayvargiya untouched, something which has baffled the state leaders. Vijayvargiya, who is called as an efficient “organizational man” by media sympathetic to him, has taken no effort to mend the organization in the state where the ground reality is that in most of the booths the party does not even have a booth worker.
This was visible recently during the municipal polls where the party candidates were left to manage the booths themselves. In many booths the candidate was the only BJP leader who was seen managing the elections, and failing miserably to do so. As a result, the ruling Trinamool Congress won 102 of the 108 municipalities. Out of the 102 civic bodies won by the TMC, there was no opposition in 31 municipalities.
While the state BJP leadership has accused the TMC’s use of muscle power as the reason for this one sided result, no serious efforts have been put by the same leadership to take these allegations to a judicial logical end. Multiple state leaders including councilors, MLAs and MPs told The Sunday Guardian that the BJP was a pale shadow of what it was in the 2019 polls.
According to them, even if the national president were to organize a roadshow outside any district of Calcutta today, the party would find it difficult to even gather 200 cars and 500 bikes or 1000 dedicated party workers. “We give the example of Vijayvargiya because he was ‘the man’ as far as the BJP was concerned for state Assembly polls and now he is nowhere to be seen and yet he continues in the position. This naturally leads to a conclusion that the national leadership is least interested in the state and that it will only get active once the polls comes near,” a MP rued. The same sentiments were shared by MLAs and councilors.
According to another MP, Vijayvargiya, perhaps, too has realized that there is nothing for him in West Bengal and hence he is just waiting to be relieved of his present responsibility which explains his absenteeism from the state.