Besides the incessant rigging and violence perpetrated by the TMC, with the help of paid goons and the administrative machinery, there are various factors that the BJP needs to look into and introspect with regard to the KMC elections held two days back, if they wish to remain in contention in Bengal and not return to their earlier position of non existence in the state.
The alarming feature of the said elections is that of the Left Front jumping back into contention with a higher vote percentage (12.35%) compared to the BJP (9.13%), despite having lesser seats. This is exactly what the doctor ordered for the TMC as the two formations are ideologically on the same platform, even having expressed their desire to work together on many issues. When the Left Front – Congress combine were the major opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, the state hardly realized the existence of any opposition in the state, which is not the case with the BJP occupying that position in the West Bengal Assembly, currently. I saw a few videos of talk sessions with TMC and Left Leaders, where they were seen enjoying a high degree of camaraderie, something not observed with the BJP leaders around. Hence, the buzz is whether the TMC did help the Left gain some votes using their ‘rigging’ machinery or not, though there is no evidence of the same.
It is well known that the Left had requested their voters to opt for the TMC during the West Bengal Assembly Elections of 2021, to stop the BJP from assuming power, so one wonders if the TMC returned the favour during the KMC elections. After all, it augurs well for the TMC to create a perception amongst the already Left leaning Bengali populace that Left is re-emerging as the major opposition in the state, which will help them to decimate BJP.
Having said all the above, BJP in Bengal needs to hold it’s act together to remain as the primary contender to assume power whenever the TMC is on their way out. The number of seats won by them have gone down to 3 from 6, won during the previous KMC elections held in 2015. That is, most certainly, a major cause of worry.
The main factors ailing the party are as follows:
Failure to create a positive perception – That the State BJP leadership doesnot stand by it’s ground level workers when they are in dire need or whenever the TMC cadres attacked or killed them, has always been a common narrative propagated by the party insiders, even before the unprecedented violence inflicted on the BJP karyakartas post the declaration of the West Bengal Assembly results. While we are aware that the narrative is mostly, if not fully, untrue, there has been no attempt by the BJP to reverse the perception. On the contrary, the vast majority of social media volunteers who posted accounts, photos, videos of how the BJP leaders or the RSS
Swayamsevaks were rendering help to the BJP karyakartas and other hindus affected by the post poll violence, were badly trolled by some self-proclaimed nationalists and also by some party insiders. The BJP didnot correct the perception themselves, which they could have done even by hiding the identity of the victim. This made them appear extremely meek, indifferent and insensitive, which again is not true.
Lack of visibility – The people connect was missing in Kolkata due to lack of experience and the fear that they may be attacked and killed by the TMC cadres.
Protests and agitations are image enhancers in the Bengal political scenario – Bengal is habituated with the ‘Bandh’ culture, with frequent rail and road blockades, with huge processions affecting normal life in the city. BJP’s failure to continually organize and execute such agitations went against it. There were plenty of issues like the TET, SSC fiasco, exorbitant electricity bills, non reduction of state tax on fuel, overall misgovernance by the TMC. But they failed to capitalize on the same.
Pampering identified moles – The party insiders, the well known offenders, who have been maligning the party’s image by making false accusations against not only the party leaders but also the supporters and character assassinating them are visibly being pampered by the party – the evidence of the same is visible in social media. This has a very high potential of discouraging even the hard core loyalists to refrain from openly supporting the party or even exercising their franchise.
Infighting – The infighting within the party gets ugly most of the time with the media lapping it up gleefully, since it is a well known fact that they owe their allegiance to the TMC. There is infighting with regard to election tickets as well as official party posts. If one set of people are given either of the two, the other set takes offence and starts creating a raucous. This is extremely discouraging for the karyakartas as well as the supporters.
Lack of election preparedness – The BJP seems to put up very little banners, hoardings, festoons and party flags during elections, compared to other political parties. There seems to be a general reluctance in distributing election slips to the voters, which is the first time touchbase with the voters, shortly before the elections. All this adds on to the poor visibility of the party discouraging anyone except the staunch supporters, to vote for BJP. The foot soldiers are missing. Besides, most appear to be novices with no clue on how to conduct elections.
Setting Theory – The common leftist narrative that there is a setting between the TMC and the BJP has been constantly propagated by the supporters and some members even. This confuses voters and the anti TMC votes go to the left. The propagation of this narrative receives covert support from the TMC too, for obvious reasons. They start off demotivating karyakartas by spreading rumours that some of their important winning candidates will ultimately join the TMC. They did the same with Sajal Ghosh, post the declaration of the KMC results, compelling him to appear on Facebook Live to rubbish such allegations. Bengal BJP leadership has to find ways and means to counter the same.
Greed for Power and Fame – There is a perennial disgruntlement amongst the BJP karyakartas post the declaration of candidate names. Whosoever is selected, there is always a group of disgruntled karyakartas who outrage openly claiming that the seats were compromised in return for sexual and monetary favours (never have they been able to prove the same though) and that they won’t support the candidate the party chose ahead of their preferred candidate. There is power tussle in other formations too but they fight the elections together. This calls for immediate counselling of the BJP karyakartas and intervention of the top leadership to address their grievances. Else sabotage or indifference by the party’s own people will keep the party away from power perennially in the state. It is also very depressing for the supporters to find the party members fighting and indulging in mud-slinging at each other.
Inappropriate use of Social Media – When one decides to join politics and become a public figure, however small the position within the party may be, one loses one’s personal space in social circles – be it real or virtual. Then one needs to behave appropriately so that the party image is not tarnished. Posting unnecessary stuff like selfies meaningless quotes, sentimental messages and then blaming the party on Election Result’s Day and never ever displaying enough courage to speak against the political opponents is extremely poor optics. This is where some BJP karyakartas err. These are the ones who need a crash course on social behaviour (I am serious). This tarnishes the party age badly and discourages voters.
Dependency on the Leftist narrative –
There is a tendency amongst some ‘intellectually inclined’ Bengal BJP leaders – the ones who are regular at numerous seminars et al, to directly post and propagate thr Leftist narrative against the TMC, thereby projecting them as the voice against the TMC rather than they themselves. This makes the BJP appears meek and depleted of ideas and means to counter the TMC, causing the naturally leftist populace to again look leftwards. These intellectuals need to immediately stop eulogizing the Left and posting the opinions of Arunava Ghosh (though he is a Congress-man)and Sujan Chakraborty against the TMC and do the same themselves.
Leftist intrusion in the Sangh Rank – It has been observed for quite sometime that known nationalist mouthpieces like the ‘Swastika’ and the ‘Jugashankha’ have been caustically attacking the BJP and the RSS and posting the Leftist propaganda as well as the Leftist perspective in their journals. No other political party or ideology does that. This is due to the infiltration of Ex Leftist journalists, writers, intellectuals running these journals. Many complaints from the supporters as well as Sangh members have fallen into deaf ears. The indifferent attitude of the leadership towards narrative building and anti Sangh propaganda coming from their very own mouthpiece is costing them dearly. The demands by the supporters and karyakartas to sack these leftists pretending to be nationalists, have not been met as yet.
News of intense lobbying by the top leadership – The news of difference of opinion amongst it’s top brass, which, at times, gets murky, is extremely discouraging and demotivating for the karyakartas and voters. When such news is being propagated, it is obvious that internal sabotage is taking place. The leadership needs to act fast against such saboteurs rather than pamper them with plum posts. Besides, they should dispel the doubts arising in the minds of karyakartas and voters by appearing together in various road shows and press conferences.
Action against false news – The legal cell of the Bengal BJP needs to be revamped and legal action needs to be taken against fake news peddlers. Else such news automatically gains credibility, thus jeopardizing chances of BJP’s electoral success.
Over Dependency on the Central Leadership – The state leadership, most often than not, appears clueless in handling several internal issues, in dealing with their political adversaries, campaigning and narrative building, for which, they need to depend on the Central leadership, thus appearing meek and losing credibility amongst the karyakartas m Hence, they are often criticized and abused by their very own karyakartas. They need to be more confident as leaders and continuously touch-base with the ground level workers because it is the efforts of the ground level workers which helps in strengthening the smallest unit of the organizational setup, i.e the booth. Hence, the grievances of the ground level workers should not be ignored at any cost.
Lack of team spirit – The leaders at district level and at mandal level need to concentrate on their respective areas of operation, stand by and re-build the confidence of the karyakartas. They need to focus on team building rather than on self promotion. If the karyakartas are not confident, if they are apprehensive and fearful of being at the receiving end of TMC ire, neither can they perform on the ground, nor can they encourage voters to go out and vote for the BJP. The primary reason for the BJP receiving less votes is because their dedicated voters as well as the fence sitters couldnot amass enough courage to go out and vote as they were scared of the TMC violence. A strong booth level BJP team would have immensely helped in getting them out of their homes to go and vote.
There is a tendency amongst many celebrated nationalist bloggers to mindlessly blame the Central Leadership of the BJP for it’s Bengal debacle. What they fail to realize is that the it’s high time for the State Leadership to ‘grow up’ and provide a strong and aggressive leadership all along. Over dependency on the Centre would cause them to lose credibility leading to an erosion of their vote bank. The Centre cannot continuously keep spoon feeding them. If the local leadership in other states, including those where the BJP is not in power, can provide able leadership in their respective territories, then the Bengal BJP leadership can do the same. This will also help in reigning in renegade MPs from venting out against the party candidates publicly in electronic and social media. Taking a leaf out of the real ideological adversaries of the BJP, the Left, their task should be to not give up or be too disheartened. This defeat should be a lesson for them to introspect on the causes of defeat, plan and execute a course correction fast and remain united while providing encouragement to the medium rung leadership and the karyakartas to fight along, come what may so that they are able to regain lost ground and build up on the same, if they desire to again become a formidable force in the state of West Bengal, which is eagerly waiting for a change in leadership but cannot yet see an alternative in the BJP.