After posting an impressive win by bagging 18 of 42 seats in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has now turned its focus to topple the ruling TMC government in the state and has started preparing itself to be viewed as an “alternative force” that can take TMC head-on.
Party leaders think that if BJP is to win the upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections, the party needs its own developmental agenda and programmes. Mere criticism of TMC and chief minister Mamata Banerjee, coupled with high-pitched rhetoric may not help it to overthrow the latter.
“If we form a government in West Bengal, we should be in a position to sustain it. Thus, we not only need to draw people’s attention towards the teething problems which this state faces today, but should be able to solve them as well”, Chandra Kumar Bose, vice president of BJP’s West Bengal wing said.
According to Bose, the BJP’s campaign will focus on restoration of Rule of Law in the state, identification of illegal infiltrators (National Register of Citizens) and implementation of central government schemes.
The party's promise to identify illegal immigrants has been a crucial factor in ensuring BJP's win from border districts and northern parts of Bengal. The party has claimed that more than 15 million illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh inhabit the state.
In the run up to the General Elections, the BJP claimed around 130 of its supporters lost their lives while during General Elections 12 people lost their lives in poll-related violence and post poll violence has claimed over three lives till now.
The powerful syndicates, allegedly promoted by TMC, is another focus area for the BJP which the party has sworn to eradicate.
Besides these three crucial issues, the BJP will be focusing on improvement in civic amenities like electricity, proper infrastructure in urban as well as rural areas, improvement of slums and others.
The BJP will also focus on bringing in investment in core sectors which it believes will lead to creation of ancillary industries which in turn, will generate jobs.
“The MSME, which can potentially employ a large number of people, cannot survive in this state if there aren’t any core sectors to feed them. MSMEs needs to be developed around core sectors which will assure their survival”, Bose said.
After West Bengal failed to attract any big ticket investment post the Singur and Nandigram fiasco, the state government has been focussing on the small-medium sector for investment and job creation.
On the other hand, the BJP will also focus on developing the healthcare segment. Importantly, Bose said, if elected to power in Bengal, it will form a committee to oversee the rates the private hospitals and nursing homes levy on the patients. The committee will also monitor and oversee doctors’ availability and the status of medical equipment.
Party sources said that instructions have been given to its elected representatives from this state to “deliver as per people’s expectations” and “work for the people at all costs” no matter what the impediments may be.
The BJP’s narrative in Bengal so far was alleged corruption and scams and collapse of law and order. In the recent past, the party never missed any opportunity to attack Banerjee over these issues. Even during campaigning for the General Elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Amit Shah chose to attack Banerjee over her administrative failures rather than clearly state what the BJP intends for this state and how it will do it.
A strong anti-incumbency feeling against the ruling TMC and polarisation in this state helped the BJP post its best ever tally in the state while increase its vote share from 17 per cent to 40.25 per cent.
Party insiders feel that the Assembly election, slated for 2021 may take place much ahead of its schedule considering the defections which the TMC is going through.
After the General Elections, more than 60 councillors from the TMC camp as well as some lawmakers with TMC and other party’ affiliations defected to the BJP.
In this year’s General Elections, Banerjee lost 12 seats and her party was wiped out of north Bengal, which prompted the chief minister to reorganise the party. It led to various changes in its leadership structure. Sources suggested that ace political strategist Prashant Kishor has also been roped in to guide the TMC for future elections. However, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said more defections are underway and numerous TMC partymen, including elected representatives, are in talks with the BJP to jump ship.
Political observer Biswanath Chakraborty noted that the next few months will be crucial for the BJP and people will closely monitor how the districts from where the BJP has won, fares and how effectively Central schemes reaches those areas.
“People had trusted BJP and thus it was able to win from so many seats. Amidst high expectations from this party, now the BJP needs to quickly prove that it is more efficient than its rivals when it comes to developmental work, or job creation or law and order situation”, Chakraborty opined.
BJP will now have to walk the talk in constituencies where it has won while develop strong support for the party in south Bengal. Although the BJP won considerably in the western and northern part of the state, it lost to the more urbane south Bengal entirely to the TMC.