The Weekend Leader - How two BJP spearheads breached Mamata's bastion

How two BJP spearheads breached Mamata's bastion

BY MILINDA GHOSH ROY   |  Kolkata

27-May-2019

BJP leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy are getting accolades as the chief architects of the party's stunning electoral success story in West Bengal.

From winning just two of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal in 2014, the BJP has increased its Lok Sabha tally to 18 in 2019 with an equally impressive rise in vote share from 16.8 per cent to 40.25 per cent.

BJP national General Secretary Vijayvargiya, who replaced Siddharth Nath Singh in July 2015 as the state in-charge, played a key role bridging the distance between the party's state and central leadership.

On the other hand, Roy, once the right hand of Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, worked on luring a number of Trinamool leaders who were disillusioned with Banerjee and her party.

Vijayvargiya, an astute politician from Indore, had realised the need for a dynamic leadership for the party in Bengal after taking charge. 

He convinced the central leadership that Dilip Ghosh, a former RSS pracharak, should help the party's state unit. Ghosh was first made a state General Secretary and then elevated to the post of state President.

The strategy worked as Ghosh made almost daily tours to the districts to strengthen the organisation and boost the morale of party workers with his fiery, and often, provocative speeches.

In a bid to reach out to the grassroots and capitalise on people's discontent against the ruling Trinamool Congress, Vijayvargiya and Ghosh planned a number of protest demonstrations against the administration like the party's 'March to Lalbazar', the police headquarters, in 2017, and demonstrations against the state's failure to curb communal tension in Basirhat.

Constant confrontations with Banerjee's party helped the BJP capture the opposition space.

The two visited the homes of party activists who were facing attacks from Trinamool and asked other state leaders to do the same. The visits sent a message to the workers that the party was with them and encouraged them to continue fighting.

Another masterstroke by Vijayvargiya was to rope in Mukul Roy, the virtual second in command in Trinamool Congress, who knew almost everything about Trinamool and West Bengal like the palm of his hand.

With backing from Vijayvargiya and BJP's central leadership, Roy played a pivotal role in strengthening the party in Bengal's grassroots, something he had already successfully done for Trinamool.

Roy, well known for his organisational skills and close connect with the Trinamool's grassroot level leaders, was given the responsibility of the chief election strategist by the BJP in Bengal. And he did not disappoint.

Capitalising on discontent factor and factionalism within the Trinamool, he tempted a number of senior leaders like Barrackpore MLA Arjun Singh, Cooch Behar youth leader Nisith Pramanik, Bolpur MP Anupam Hazra and Bishnupur MP Soumitra Khan to leave the party before the elections and join the BJP, which created a rift within the Trinamool's local support base.

Singh, Khan and Pramanik have won from their constituencies while Hazra finished second in a tough Jadavpur contest. Another leader, Khagen Murmu, who defected from the CPI-M just before the elections, pulled off a stunning victory from Malda North seat.

Falling marginally short of the party President Amit Shah's target of winning 23 Lok Sabha seats from Bengal, the BJP leaders will have their eyes set on the Assembly elections in 2021, when they aim to "overthrow" the Mamata regime.

In 2019, the saffron party has managed to take the lead in 121 of the 294 Assembly segments in Bengal while it lost in at least 30 segments with less than 3,000 votes, Roy claimed in a press conference days after the Lok Sabha results were announced.

The Trinamool Congress is ahead in 164 Assembly segments and the Congress in only nine.

With a firm grip on the rural voters of north Bengal and tribal dominated Junglemahal area, the saffron party now needs to look for a face to be projected as an alternative to the charismatic Banerjee.

Even Trinamool leaders have become reconciled to the "certainty" of the Roy-Vijayvarigiya pair going all out to poach Trinamool MLAs -- a game in which Roy is a past muster.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have claimed that a large number of Trinamool MLAs were in touch with them and ready to switch sides. 

With the BJP coming up with an impressive show, political circles feel defections from the Trinamool ranks are only a matter of time.

The game-plan could be to create a situation where the Trinamool's majority would come under strain, leading to an advancement of the elections to 2020 or even earlier.

At the same time, the two need to strengthen the saffron party organisation and plug the loopholes. A number of BJP leaders have been publicly admitting that they won massive votes in many areas where they hardly have an organisation.

With a large number of municipalities set to go to the hustings this year, the BJP leaders also need to gear up the party in the small and big towns of the state and getting the backing of the urban voters would be a litmus test.IANS


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