‘Tripura Factors’ Missing In West Bengal Election For BJP

More than three years after assuming power, the Biplab Deb-led government in Tripura in controversy with both tribals and Bengalis. In West Bengal, where the BJP recorded a massive gain from two seats to 18 seats in the Lok Sabha election, seems to be in a state of mess. Something is not going right for the BJP in both States where the party has come to prominence without any political history. It might be tempting to link the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA), but the truth is there is little connection between the two. CAA is essentially applicable to Hindu refugees from East Pakistan and Bangladesh. Naturally, there is ground support in favour of the Act in both the States. The problems lie within the BJP, its State leadership, and the approach of the Central leadership towards State politics. First and foremost, the BJP has simply failed to follow Amercian fast-food giant McDonald’s example of presenting bringing foreign food in local tastes. In both these States, the BJP had a microscopic presence and, that, too, mostly among the non-Bengalis in the past. It was then common for the State leaders to ape their bosses in Delhi, be in language or attire. As a major party, the party was expectedto localise itself. But the reverse has happened. Look at Tripura CM, his speech, dress, and social-media posts – everything has a touch of Hindi – way different from the dhoti-clad former CM Manik Sarkar. The situation is no better in West Bengal. Barring a few honourable exceptions, a majority of the leaders, right up to the district level, are trying to become a replica of the national leaders in language and attitude, without realising the importance of being local. Even the slogan ‘Jai Sri Ram’ was borrowed from the Hindi heartland. The exceptions to this trend are mostly those who joined the BJP from other parties. Naturally, the ‘Hindi-culture’ of the BJP has become a common target of its political opponents in both States, and even the party supporters seem to have accepted the truth. Both Bengal and Tripura have history of Left rule, who barely left space for the Opposition. While the Left has been replaced by Trinamool in Bengal, the political culture remains the same. Bringing such empires down or making a major dent were, therefore, huge tasks and the BJP did that in style. Consolidation of both Tribal and non-tribal votes did magic in Tripura. In Bengal, they had the full support of scheduled tribes and substantial support of the scheduled castes. According to Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, even their thin Muslim vote share saw an increase. Typically, their success came due to anti-ruling party votes. The intelligent poll-strategy and charisma of Modi played a big role in the sudden rise in fortunes.In Tripura, the BJP faces infight. Many senior leaders who came from the Congress fell out. For inexplicable reasons Deb holds nearly two dozen departments instead of distributing them. Till this week, the Chief Minister was also the party president. He was replaced by a relatively new face. RSS’s Sunil Deodhar, who played a crucial role in winning the 2018 election, had almost gone into hiding soon after the polls. Many party MLAs contacted by BusinessLine feelthe government may be headed for a humiliating defeat in the next election. After the stellar performance in the 2019 general election, everyone expected the party to play on front foot in Bengal. The reverse has happened. During the last by-elections, the party failed to retain the Kharagpur seat, which was vacated by State president Dilip Ghosh. There are complaints of a set of winning MPs neglecting their constituency. Party insiders say one MP from South Bengal has not even opened his office in a major town. A Central minister recently faced public ire for not visiting her constituency after the Lok Sabha polls. There are reports that the Central leadership wants new faces in senior organisational positions. But no such step has been taken as yet. Ground workers from North Bengal, where the Trinamool was washed out in the Lok Sabha polls, complain of fast erosion of party base due to the serious neglect by the State leadership.

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