Despite increasing its tally from three seats to 77 in the 294 member Assembly, many West Bengal BJP leaders feel that the central leadership’s failure to gauge the mood on the ground and ignoring the local leadership were the main reasons for losing the high stakes battle to the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Listing the reasons for the party’s failure to form the government in West Bengal, which was considered the last frontier by the saffron party along with Kerala, West Bengal leaders told IANS that there was little involvement of the state leadership in the decision making, there was too much deployment of central leaders from other other parts of the country, especially from North India, and a failure to present a credible and effective Bengali leadership.
A section in the West Bengal BJP unit feels that if the Central leadership had heard the local cadre the result could have been better. “Local leaders are well connected with the people and aware of issues concerning them and by ignoring them the Central leadership completely disconnected itself from the ground,” claimed a BJP leader.
Former West Bengal BJP Chief and former Governor of Tripura and Meghalaya, Tathagatha Roy openly criticized the ticket distribution and the role of central appointees for affairs of the state unit. Blaming state in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, co-incharge Arvind Menon, Shiv Prakash and state unit Chief Dilip Ghosh, Roy had tweeted, “These people have heaped the worst possible insults on ideologically driven BJP workers and devout Swayamsevaks who had been relentlessly working for the party since 1980s.”
Other West Bengal BJP leaders including a few who lost in the Assembly polls said, “All the Central leaders assigned to manage the party’s poll affairs had failed to do their homework and worked as dictators, ignoring the feedback from the local cadre.”
A West Bengal BJP leader claimed that the party strategists failed to present a credible local face and made it Bengali (Mamata Banerjee) versus non Bengali (Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah). “TMC used it and continuously attacked us and called the Prime Minister and Home Minister tourists. Most of the star campaigners including Modi, Shah and others had addressed voters in Hindi. This helped Banerjee’s narrative that the BJP is an outsider party with no respect for Bengali identity and culture.” he said.
The local BJP unit also believes that by not presenting a local credible face the party failed to attract the state’s intelligentsia and the Bengali Bhadralok in the urban areas.
The saffron camp in West Bengal feels that sidelining of the local leaders had worked against the party. “Most of the local leaders, instead of working on the ground engaged in overseeing and arranging logistics of leaders sent by Delhi and they behaved like a king giving orders to the local cadre,” another leader said.
The West Bengal BJP workers pointed out that the leadership also failed to gauge the mood of women voters. “Welfare schemes of the Modi government did not work in our favour but women welfare work of Mamata in the rural areas worked magic for the ruling party. From the very start the central leadership insisted that like Bihar, women voters in West Bengal would vote for the BJP but it did not happen,” he said.
Sexist comments like the ‘Didi O Didi’ remark of the Prime Minister and Ghosh’s comment that Mamata should wear shorts also worked against the BJP, claimed a party leader. Another leader suggested that the party should now start identifying candidates for the next general elections in 2024 instead of parachuting in outsiders.
“We also need a leader of high calibre, respected across the state to lead the party,” a local leader added.