Despite complete or partial lockdown in parts of many districts and biweekly lockdown in Bengal, all BJP district presidents, many of whom are newly elected, have been summoned in phases to Delhi to evaluate party’s position in each of the state’s 294 assembly seats. The BJP has declared that it will win at least 200 seats in the 2021 Bengal polls.
The exercise was set in motion on Wednesday and will continue till next week.
The constituency-wise evaluation began on Thursday with north Bengal districts where BJP wrested all seven Lok Sabha seats in 2019. It set a record by winning 18 of the state’s 42 seats while TMC won 22. BJP’s vote share was 40.64 % against 43.69 % of the TMC.
“Each district president is being given a questionnaire. One of the difficult questions is how the BJP would perform if polls are held right now. They are being asked to state the party’s strengths and weaknesses right down to local unit level. They have to give their assessment on voters as well as the TMC’s strategies and weaknesses,” said a leader who did not want to be quoted. Each district president is being interviewed for two hours, he said.
The exercise is being conducted by BJP central leaders such as Arvind Menon, who is in charge of West Bengal, joint general secretary (organisation) Shivprakash and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha are representing the state leadership. National general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh is overseeing the exercise.
BJP currently has 16 legislators but most of them are defectors from the TMC and other parties. In the 2016 polls, the BJP won only three seats while its ally, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha of Darjeeling district, won three more. The BJP contested 291 seats but had only 10.16 % vote share.
BJP leaders believe that although the situation has improved drastically since 2019 there is no space for complacency as TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is trying to regain lost ground by overhauling the party and stop more defections.
“We have gone into election mode. The BJP will fight with full strength,” said BJP national executive member Mukul Roy, a former Rajya Sabha member, who switched over from the TMC in 2017 and played a key role in several defections and the party’s impressive 2019 Lok Sabha polls performance. Roy also flew to Delhi for a meeting but returned to Kolkata on Friday for an eye treatment.
Interestingly, the Bengal chief minister is figuring in the BJP’s ongoing exercise for non-political reasons as well. Since direct flights between Kolkata and Delhi are banned, Bengal BJP leaders are flying to Lucknow or Indore to catch connecting flights and then following the same route on the return journey.
“The chief minister has no sense. Has she been able to stop people from travelling between Kolkata and Delhi? Her whims are only costing people more money and travel time,” said Bengal BJP vice-president Ritesh Tiwari who reached Delhi on Friday via Lucknow.
“I have to attend a meeting on July 26. I will travel via Indore,” said Arjun Singh, another vice-president and Lok Sabha member from Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas district. The constituency has witnessed maximum political violence since the Lok Sabha polls.
Since flights from Bagdogra airport in Darjeeling district are operating without restriction, only the BJP district presidents from north Bengal flew directly to Delhi.
Reacting to the exercise, TMC leaders said it only proves that Mamata Banerjee was right in saying that the BJP is a party of “outsiders”.
“If BJP has to get its Bengal leaders to fly to Delhi to explain ground reality one can easily conclude that the party knows nothing about the state and its people,” said minister of state for parliamentary affairs Tapas Roy.