BJP banks on new Bengal in-charges to strengthen presence

The protest by the West Bengal unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the ruling dispensation in Kolkata on Tuesday is being seen as the party’s first steps towards recalibrating its strategy in the state after the appointment of national general secretary Sunil Bansal and former Bihar minister Mangal Pandey as in-charges.

According to BJP functionaries, the march to Nabanna (state secretariat) to protest against alleged corrupt practices that came to the fore with the arrest of ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in the state’s school service commission recruitment scam, was an outcome of the party’s renewed push to intensify its stir against the Mamata Banerjee government.

While Bansal was given charge of the state on August 10, Pandey’s appointment was announced last Friday.

The decision to step up pressure on the TMC government was taken after a three-day organisational meeting that Bansal chaired in the state on August 29, according to a party functionary.

“Bansal is not new to the state, he’s been involved in the elections here before, but this is the first time he will have a hands-on role in shaping the strategy for the party. While he (Bansal) has a proven track record of delivering results in elections , Pandey has a grip on organisational matters and his experiences will be helpful in combating the TMC, which has unleashed unthinkable violence against its political opponents,” the functionary said on condition of anonymity.

Bansal is learnt to have instructed the cadre to strengthen the party’s presence at the booth level and plan aggressively for protests, rallies and other public programmes to take on the TMC government.

Though the BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and 77 of the 294 assembly seats in 2021, the state unit has been riddled with friction and disagreement between leaders. The appointment of the new state in-charges is expected to address concerns of multiple factions in the state unit.

“The one thing that stood out today was the cohesion with which the state unit functioned. There was a meeting of the so-called three angles of the triangle, Dilip Ghosh (former president), Suvendu Adhikari (leader of opposition) and Sukanta Majumdar (state president),” a second party functionary said, also seeking anonymity.

“Even in Uttar Pradesh where he (Bansal) was in-charge since 2014, there were factions in the state unit and several big leaders were at odds with each other. But after he took over, there were no setbacks in that state. So going by his track record, we are expecting to improve our tally in the next round of elections,” the second functionary added.

Bansal and Pandey’s appointment is also perceived as a move to assuage concerns of state leaders who felt the central leadership was not paying enough attention to the state after the 2021 assembly elections.

“Some state unit leaders complained that while there was enough evidence of corruption and irregularities in the functioning of the Bengal government, the Union government had not taken appropriate action. Now with big fish like Partha Chatterjee (former TMC minister in custody in the recruitment scam), there is an indication that the BJP will not be watching from the sidelines,” the first functionary said.

However, not everyone in the state BJP unit is upbeat about the appointments. Just like with the appointment of national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya earlier as Bengal in-charge, some leaders are not happy about leaders unfamiliar with the state being given charge.

“To outsiders, these appointments are big, but for us these are routine. These leaders will have to understand the political chemistry in the state to finalise the strategy. The state unit, however, is geared to win at least 24 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats (in 2024),” another state BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.

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