BJP’s new plan for Bengal amid discontent against Mamata Banerjee

Sayantan Ghosh
07 Nov 2022
BJP’s new plan for Bengal amid discontent against Mamata Banerjee

Sunil Bansal (Left); Amit Shah (Right)

Kolkata: With growing discontent among voters against the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, the Bharatiya Janata Party is all set to launch a mega comeback in Bengal. In this project, the party has laid down plans for different departments. According to the sources, the Central leadership is now planning several political strategies for the party in Bengal. For smooth dissemination of commands and messages, BJP central leadership appointed Sunil Bansal as the in-charge of Bengal BJP.

The new plan has received momentum as the Mamata Banerjee government is now facing several setbacks after numerous graft charges against its top leaders. The BJP leadership believe that it is the right time to rework the Bengal plan and this time the key strategy will be by forming a strong organisation not based on TMC defectors.

According to sources, after Bansal chaired several training camps and interaction sessions with Bengal BJP leaders, he suggested to the BJP president JP Nadda that Bengal will need a "prabhari" who has strong experience in grassroots organisation building. Thereafter, BJP appointed senior leader and former Bihar cabinet minister Mangal Pandey, who has been instrumental in booth-level organisation building in different states, as the Prabhari. He will be assisted by Ranchi Mayor Asha Lakra and IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya.

Bengal BJP vice-president and MP Jagannath Sarkar told the Newsdrum, "In 2021 Bengal BJP worked hard and it was a continuation of our efforts from 2015 onwards. But we made a mistake by accommodating dented leaders of the TMC. Now we all have realised our mistake. The central leadership is now working closely with the state leadership. The appointments show that they are thinking seriously about Bengal again. We will rectify the mistakes done earlier and work harder."

Organisational rebuilding

After Sunil Bansal was appointed by the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party as the charge he focused on the issue of organisation rebuilding in the state. According to sources in the party, the central leadership during their meeting with Bengal BJP Chief Sukanta Majumdar and leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari also stressed the same issue. According to the sources, both home minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda asked these leaders that the only way to remove Mamata Banerjee's government is by developing a stronger organisation.

JP Nadda and Amit Shah both recently travelled to Bengal. Both leaders have made sure that the state will receive special attention from the central leadership during their visit.

A senior BJP leader who did not want to be named said, "Despite numerous attempts from the state leadership, the central leaders did not give the state importance after the loss in the Bengal assembly elections of 2021. However, since Home Minister Amit Shah promised to oversee Bengal's daily political operations, now the situation is changing."

Bansal was chosen for this position, according to sources, by Home Minister Amit Shah so that he could directly monitor Bengal's progress. Bansal is a close aide of the Home Minister and played a key role during his UP election strategy making.

The senior leader also said, "The central leadership has recently requested from our leaders that disagreements among the party's top office bearers must not arise during organisational building. The organisation at the booth level should be created with the help of loyal, BJP-aligned supporters. Therefore, TMC turncoats are no longer desired at the booth level by the central leadership. They've also suggested that we run a quick background check on anyone joining the party at the booth or district level."

Appointment of new in-charges

Sources within the BJP confirmed that Mangal Pandey was appointed based on Bansal's recommendation. Mangal Pandey has helped to establish grassroots organisations in several states, including Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and Jharkhand. Significantly, Mangal Pandey handled the party infighting diligently in these states as well, bringing victory. Bengal BJP leaders expect the same thing to happen in Bengal.

BJP insiders claim that before switching sides and becoming close to Home Minister Amit Shah and Cabinet minister Bhupendra Yadav, Mangal Pandey was close to former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi. In 1987, he joined the ABVP and the RSS Students' Union, and in the middle of the 1990s, he switched to the BJP. Mangal Pandey was appointed as the president of the BJP Yuva Morcha in Bihar in 2000. Pandey became the head of the Bihar BJP in 2013 and held that position until 2016, just prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. During the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections in 2017, Pandey closely collaborated with Bansal and Home Minister Amit Shah and worked a miracle. He oversaw the organisation in Himachal Pradesh that year, where the party triumphed in the election.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior central BJP leader involved in Bengal politics said, "Mamata Banerjee has worked on the ground and created a grassroots organisation in Bengal since the Left's time in power. Since the Trinamool Congress is a cadre-based political party, we will need strong organisation and effective leadership coordination to defeat Banerjee's politics. Political parties in the state with a cadre-based structure in the past included the Left and the Congress. The five-stage organisations that Mangal Pandey has built-in states like Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, and even Uttar Pradesh have been built with exceptional success. We think that the Bengal unit of the party will benefit from this knowledge."

According to the sources in the Bengal BJP, Mangal Pandey will work closely with the state general secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakrabarty and state joint general secretary (organisation) Satish Dhond to build a strong five-stage organisation. This will include booth-level committees, block committees, zonal committees, district committees, and then the state leadership.

Pacifying tension with RSS

The Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has faced several backlashes from its own leaders in the last year. The Bharatiya Janata Party is a regimented political organisation with a strong organisational structure, and the post of General Secretary is reserved for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members. The organization's general secretary serves as a liaison between the BJP and the RSS. Amitava Chakraborty currently holds this position in Bengal.

In an unprecedented move over the past year, a number of BJP leaders have publicly criticised Chakraborty for what they claim to be his nepotistic actions within the party. Sources within the BJP confirmed that the Sangh was displeased by the repeated attacks made by some BJP leaders and even a few state ministers in the central government of Bengal. BJP supporters in Bengal took to the streets in April of this year to demand Chakraborty's dismissal.

The RSS then dispatched BL Santosh, national general secretary (organisation), to deal with the Bengali situation. The BJP central leaders want a youth-based political party, so the removal of Chakraborty would not be an option, Santhosh made clear during his meeting with the state leadership. Following the visit of Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nada, the party chose to name Satish Dhond, a seasoned member of the RSS, as joint general secretary of the Bengal unit. BJP insiders believe that this was done with the intention of cutting the wings of Chakrabarti and also to send a message to (the RSS that the central leadership is taking care of every organisational issue in the state.

Communication and IT management

Several BJP leaders criticised the party's lack of a social media strategy during the most recent assembly elections. But as of now, the BJP's central leadership has also handled the leaders' IT management and communication. Sources claim that Amit Malviya has assembled his own team in West Bengal, which is keeping track of all the state leaders' social media communications and coordinating with them.

Under the condition of anonymity, a person who works closely with the West Bengal BJP's social media team said, "We keep an eye on all party developments and work closely with the leaders. For instance, we solicited input from the protest leaders during the most recent Nabanna Chalo demonstration, prepared their tweets, and advised what to post and what not to. Along with the central team, we coordinate. We occasionally host training sessions for the leaders and supporters as well."

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