Politics

What Awaits Amit Shah In Bengal As He Sets A Target To Win 35 Seats In 2024

Jaideep Mazumdar

Dec 25, 2023, 01:49 PM | Updated Dec 26, 2023, 12:00 PM IST

Home Minister Amit Shah and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee.
Home Minister Amit Shah and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J P Nadda will be in Kolkata for two days from Tuesday (26 December) to oversee preparations made by the party’s state unit for the Lok Sabha polls four months from now. 

The primary objective of the visit is to review the progress made by the party unit in Bengal in strengthening itself at the grassroot level and to finetune the party’s strategy for the ensuing polls.

Bengal BJP leaders have compiled a report on the party's strength and weaknesses that will be part of a presentation to be made to the visiting central leaders. 

Swarajya spoke to a number of state party leaders to get a sense of their own assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the BJP in Bengal today. 

Based on those conversations, here’s a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the party’s state unit:        

Strengths: 

  • As in the rest of the country, the BJP in Bengal has a strong network of dedicated cadres who work selflessly for the party;

  • Hindutva is spreading its appeal in Bengal, especially among Hindus in areas where Muslims have a sizable presence. 

This is because of blatant appeasement of Muslims by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and also rising assertion by Muslims in areas where they are present in substantial numbers;

  • Modi factor: the electorate realise that Lok Sabha elections will be held for a government at the federal level, and there’s no challenge to Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. 

Many of those who vote for the Trinamool in assembly elections realise that there is no alternative to Modi as the PM;

  • The Modi government’s achievements on the economic, foreign policy and security fronts make the BJP the party of choice among a large section of the electorate in Bengal, as in the rest of the country;

  • Though belatedly, the BJP has launched programmes to highlight the many failures of the Mamata Banerjee government. And such programmes have started garnering public attention and support.

Weaknesses:

  • The BJP in Bengal is beset with organisational weaknesses. Despite interventions and warnings by the central leadership, some senior leaders still indulge in factionalism and have not been able to forsake their egos. 

The disappointing results in the 2021 assembly elections completely demoralised the rank and file of the party, and many are just about recovering from that breakdown of morale.

The party has not been able to build an organisational base in many parts of the state, especially south Bengal.

  • Countless attacks on BJP cadres and supporters in the run-up to, during and after the 2021 assembly polls by Trinamool goons left many injured and dead, and many more homeless. 

The failure of the party leadership to stand by the beleaguered cadres led many to leave the party or adopt a neutral and apolitical stance. 

Regaining the confidence of the cadres has been a tough task that has not been accorded primacy in many parts of the state. This is still a work in progress. 

  • Many of the saboteurs who joined the BJP from the Trinamool before the 2021 assembly polls still remain in influential positions in the party. 

Their presence is a perennial source of discontent among the old guard which feels sidelined. 

  • A large section of the ‘old guard’ within the Bengal unit of the party, and some office-bearers who have been ‘lent’ to the party by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), lack a sense of realpolitik, charisma and are divorced from ground realities in Bengal. 

These elements in the party have become a liability and pose a hindrance to the BJP’s growth in Bengal.

  • Party’s motormouths: Many BJP leaders of Bengal court unnecessary controversies with their indiscreet and ill-advised statements. 

The party’s central leadership should impress upon state leaders to be discreet in their utterances and steer away from controversies. Not every statement by the party’s critics or rivals needs to be countered. 

  • Many of the 18 MPs of the party who won from Bengal in 2019 have not been very active in their constituencies and, thus, may not win if they are fielded once again by the party.

Many MLAs of the party are also similarly inactive. This has led to a negative perception of the party in the eyes of the electorate. 

Regaining the trust of the people of these constituencies will be an uphill task for the party. 

Opportunities:

  • The Trinamool’s image has taken a severe beating because of its alleged involvement in multiple scams.

The masses, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas, have been adversely affected by the massive loot of the public exchequer and other misdeeds by Trinamool functionaries. 

People are angry witnesses to Trinamool functionaries amassing wealth. 

This presents a massive opportunity to the BJP. The saffron party needs to tap on this anger and disgruntlement with the Trinamool.

  • Probes by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in many of the recent scams in Bengal are nearing completion and some more party leaders may be put behind bars. That will deal a body blow to the Trinamool.

  • Mamata Banerjee’s welfare schemes have floundered. Despite tall claims by the Trinamool, the many welfare schemes and doles by the state government have got embroiled in corruption and controversies. 

Lack of adequate funds due to the sorry state of Bengal’s finances has severely hampered the execution of these schemes, and many potential beneficiaries who have been left out feel cheated. 

As a result, many among the poor and backward are disgruntled. 

This presents another opportunity for the BJP.

  • There will, in all probability, be no seat-sharing deal between the Trinamool and Congress-Left in Bengal. 

The anti-BJP vote will, thus, be divided. And the BJP can benefit from that. 

Threats:

  • The Trinamool, which is desperate to win most of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from Bengal, will pull out all stops to emerge victorious.

That will involve deploying the strong-arm tactics that it is notorious for.

Apart from threatening, intimidating and attacking BJP workers and supporters, Trinamool goons will also attempt to rig the elections. 

The BJP, the Election Commission, and the Union government have to guard against this and thwart all attempts by the Trinamool to use strong-arm tactics and steal the elections. 

  • Some senior leaders of the BJP who have been sidelined are nursing their wounds and may want to get revenge by sabotaging the party’s poll prospects. 

The BJP will have to guard against such attempts from within the party; the central leadership should warn off such leaders who have the proclivity to place their egos above party interests. 

  • Some senior functionaries in the state unit of the party work at cross-purposes. 

The central leadership will need to chalk out clear-cut areas of responsibilities and functions and hold all functionaries accountable.

Amit Shah has set a very tough target of 35 seats (to win) for the state unit. Though it is not an unachievable target, he will have to ensure that Bengal party leaders pull up their socks, sink their differences and work in unison.

Shah and Nadda will also have to tell state party leaders to convince the cadres that come what may, they will not be abandoned as they were in 2021. Regaining the trust and confidence of the cadres is critical to winning the 35 Lok Sabha seats from Bengal. 


Get Swarajya in your inbox.


Magazine


image
States