By: Barun Das Gupta
Union Home Minister and BJP’s second-in-command after Prime Minister Modi has set his party’s electoral target in West Bengal – 200 seats, not one less. But the dream is slowly turning into a nightmare. Ominously for the party, attendance at its election meetings is getting thinner and thinner. So much so that at a recent poll rally at Tarapith (where the famous Tarapith temple is situated) party president J. P. Nadda became so angry at the thin attendance that he refused to mount the rostrum and instead went back straight to the local party office to demand explanation for this humiliating experience.
The BJP is also finding it difficult to contain the anger of those who had been with the party when it was no political force in West Bengal at the mass induction of Trinamool Congress leaders and workers. These TMC people have not, contrary to what the BJP would have the people believe, defected to the BJP for serving the country under the “inspiring leadership” of Prime Minister Modi. For some reason or other they thought Mamata may not make it to the Nabanna (the seat of the State Government) and it is time for them to jump on to the BJP bandwagon.
The defectors have to be “accommodated” which means they have to be provided tickets to contest the polls. This means the old and loyal workers of the party will have to be deprived. The “deprived” are not taking it calmly. Fist fights between the “old” and the “new” BJP workers are taking place frequently and chairs and tables are being hurled at one another, to the great embarrassment of the leadership.
Speculation was rife after Mukul Roy, the newly appointed all-India vice-president of the BJP recently talked about “making room for others”. Was he quitting the party? Will he try to go back to Mamata Banerjee’s fold? That does not seem likely in the immediate future. Mukul Roy is reportedly unhappy because after Subhendu Adhikari left TMC and joined BJP, Mukul is finding that he is losing his importance in the party. This is hard for him to stomach. Undoubtedly, Subhendu has become the face of the party in Bengal elections. The idea is gaining ground that in the unlikely event of the party winning, he will be the chief ministerial face of the party.
Recently, two BJP legislators who had defected from the TMC, met the Chief Minister at the Assembly buildings and had a 20-minute meeting with her. Two TMC heavyweights, Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick and Minister for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, Firhad Hakim who is considered close to Mamata. No, they did not discuss the weather with the CM for twenty minutes. They had gone to request her to release the Area Development Fund money for their respective constituencies. Both denied they were coming back to the TMC but the meeting with the CM, with one of them touching her feet in public, has sent shivers down the spine of the saffron party. Rumour has it that after being more certain of which way the wind is blowing, some of the defectors may come back to their old party.
The BJP leaders are promising the people that if they win they will turn West Bengal into Sonar Bangla or Golden Bengal. But tall promises being made by the BJP leaders are paying ever diminishing returns. The people have not forgotten the promises made by Modi before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections of bringing back all the black money stashed away in foreign banks and putting fifteen lakh rupees into the bank account of all. They have not forgotten his intention of bringing back and throwing behind the bars all who had swindled the nationalized banks and fled abroad.
The people are also seeing and feeling amused that while the BJP claims that the Congress is a “has been” party, that it is in an ICU and is dying out, nationally, the prime target of the BJP is the Congress and Rahul Gandhi whom the saffron leaders have accused of conspiring against India during his foreign trips. Indeed, this time, the Congress-CPI-M alliance has recovered much of their lost ground. If they get even twenty per cent votes, the BJP has no chance of coming anywhere near power.
The BJP leadership has understood the challenge from the Congress- CPI-M alliance and that is why he turned an official programme of inaugurating four industrial projects at the port town of Haldia in South Bengal into a venue for electoral campaign and took the name of the Congress and the CPI-M for the first time. He insinuated that the two parties are actually in league with the TMC and that their leaders often meet in Delhi behind closed doors to decide on electoral strategy. “These three parties are engaged in match-fixing, as in football”, he said. It shows how much jittery the BJP has become after seeing the size of the Congress-CPI-M rallies and road shows increasing in size with each passing day.
Unbiased observers say that the TMC will come back to power again, but with a reduced majority. However, depending on the margin of victory in number of seats won by the TMC, there is always the danger that moneybags will try to suborn the loyalty of some of the newly elected TMC legislators. Money is already flowing like water but it is not producing the desired effect the BJP had expected. Mamata Banerjee with her charismatic personality is still the idol of the masses, especially of the masses of rural Bengal who have been the biggest beneficiaries of her social welfare schemes. She has achieved, the BJP has promised – a promise which looks like a “post-dated cheque on a crashing bank.” (IPA Service)