BJP Cries Foul As Party Scrambles To Contest Panchayat Polls In Bengal A Month From Now

BJP Cries Foul As Party Scrambles To Contest Panchayat Polls In Bengal A Month From Now

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Friday, June 9, 2023 05:46 PM IST
BJP Cries Foul As Party Scrambles To Contest Panchayat Polls In Bengal A Month From NowBJP in West Bengal.
  • The dates for the panchayat polls may have been announced suddenly, but it was common knowledge that the polls would be held in July-August.

    That the party has been caught unawares and unprepared is its own fault.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengal has been caught totally unaware by the sudden announcement of panchayat polls in Bengal Thursday (8 June). 

The new state election commissioner Rajiva Sinha, who took charge Wednesday (7 June) immediately after state Governor C V Ananda Bose cleared his appointment that same morning, took the BJP by surprise by announcing dates for the rural body polls less than 24 hours after assuming office. 

Sinha, who had served as the chief secretary of Bengal and is known to be very close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, announced that the polls to 3,317 gram panchayats, 341 panchayat samitis and 20 zilla parishads will be held in a single phase on 8 July. 

But what has put the BJP in Bengal in a tough spot is the small window provided to file nominations: between 9 June and 15 June. 

“This is completely unfair. No consultations were held by the state election commissioner with opposition parties and the dates were announced unilaterally. And the time for filing nominations has been deliberately kept very narrow. We need time to prepare,” said leader of opposition and senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikary. 

Senior state BJP leaders concede that the party has been caught totally unawares with the sudden announcement. It is completely unprepared and doesn’t even have a ready list of candidates for the 62,000-odd posts for the three-tier rural bodies. 

Party leaders told Swarajya that there is a hectic scramble now to identify and select candidates for most of the seats in the gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads

“It is a tough task for us to get candidates for all the 62,000 posts. Our party organisation in most of the districts is in shambles and there hasn’t been much activity over the past two years since the Assembly polls. The whole organisational machinery is in a near-dormant stage,” a senior BJP functionary who did not want to be named told Swarajya

The BJP in Bengal has been in the doldrums since the 2021 Assembly polls because of largescale and horrific attacks on party workers and supporters by Trinamool goons in the aftermath of the elections that were swept by Mamata Banerjee’s party. 

Ground-level BJP functionaries, dejected by their party’s tepid performance in the 2021 polls, faced terrible attacks by Trinamool goons.

The disappointment with the elections results and the attacks on them by a vengeful Trinamool Congress served as a debilitating double whammy to them. 

The party says dozens were killed and maimed, their houses and families attacked and thousands driven out of their homes. Most BJP workers haven't recovered from the twin blows, and not the least because they have got no help from the party leadership. 

The BJP leadership, both central and state, failed to not only protect their workers and supporters who were left to fend for themselves, but also failed to take any strong action against the Trinamool leadership and government which was widely alleged to have been complicit in the attacks. 

As a result, thousands of BJP functionaries either disassociated themselves from the party or even joined the Trinamool in order to save their lives and properties. There have been few attempts over the past two years to bring back disgruntled and scared workers into the party fold. 

It is common knowledge that the BJP unit in Bengal is beset by factionalism and petty squabbles among its leaders. Except for Suvendu Adhikary, other senior leaders have failed to pull up their socks and provide effective leadership over the past two years. 

Most have not even addressed rallies and meetings. The BJP had failed to take advantage of widespread public anger against the Trinamool for the many scams and widespread corruption, and for its governance failures. 

Despite many and repeated urgings by the central leadership, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, to the state leaders to undertake mass outreach programmes, most state leaders have limited themselves to issuing statements to the media and perfunctory appearances in public rallies or protest programmes that have made no impact.

Amit Shah has been urging party leaders in Bengal to concentrate on strengthening the organisation from the grassroots level and undertake extensive tours to all parts of the state.

Shah has also been underlining the need to capitalise on the failings and misdeeds of the Trinamool and leverage people’s latent anger against the Trinamool. 

But those urgings have mostly gone unheeded. That’s because most BJP leaders in Bengal lack leadership skills and simply do not have the stomach to brave the hardships that attend mass outreach programmes. 

“A shining example is the massive, two-month long tour undertaken by Abhishek Banerjee as part of his party’s ‘Trinamool naba jowar’ outreach. He has been braving the intense heat and walking, riding on motorcycles and country boats, and travelling all over the state since late April. As a result, he has been quite successful in dousing people’s anger against his party. Our leaders could have taken a lesson from Abhshek’s yatra, but they did not because most of them are incapable of undertaking such programmes,” rued a former leader of the BJP who is not active any more due to ill health. 

The BJP in Bengal also largely failed to act on Amit Shah’s directive to build up the party organisation from the booth level through massive membership drives. 

“It is unfortunate that most of our present set of state leaders squabble amongst themselves and spend their time in petty politicking and games of oneupmanship. They have no charisma and organisational skills, and cannot take everyone along with them. They sorely lack leadership skills,” said the veteran BJP leader who was also active in the RSS. 

One of the very few exceptions, he conceded, was Suvendu Adhikary.

“But Suvendu hasn’t been given a free hand. There are some others who constantly put up hurdles in his path and seek to undermine him. They spend their time plotting against him and are jealous of him and his capabilities,” the ailing veteran said. 

That is why BJP workers — the few that are still active in the party — across Bengal are dejected and are lying low. It will be difficult to activate them and motivate them to work for the party in next month’s panchayat polls. 

The dates for the panchayat polls may have been announced suddenly, but it was common knowledge that the polls would be held in July-August. As such, the BJP ought to have been prepared. 

That the party has been caught unawares and unprepared is its own fault. It can only blame itself if it fails to find candidates to contest from all the 62,000 seats in the three-tier rural bodies.

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