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Instead of TMC, bring CPI(M) leaders into the saffron fold: BJP directs state leadership

The state BJP should try to bring in 'educated, well-mannered' Left leaders into the BJP's fold so that the party's 'image' gets a boost in people's minds, directed top central leadership.

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Instead of TMC, bring CPI(M) leaders into the saffron fold: BJP directs state leadership
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Ideologically, they are at the complete opposite ends of the political spectrum. In theory, one of them is categorically Right, while the other is categorically Left. Even then, in what comes as a mildly amusing development in the theatrical spectator sport that is electocracy, a senior BJP leader gave a clarion call to bring in political leaders of the Left Front into the saffron fold.

In a meeting with state BJP leaders, the senior party leader clarified that there is no need to convert party workers from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). Instead, they should try to bring in 'educated, well-mannered' Left leaders into the BJP's fold so that the party's 'image' gets a boost in people's minds.

The party needs to coax leaders from Opposition political parties, BJP President Amit Shah had declared three years ahead of the Lok Sabha Polls. According to his set mandate, the local Bengal BJP leadership has already managed to bring in a number of TMC workers and supporters into the saffron fold, over the years. In fact, former TMC veteran leader Mukul Roy joining the BJP in November 2017, was a huge shocker. Following Mukul, several TMC honchos fell into the line, like Bhatpara-Barrackpore politico Arjun Singh, youth leader Shankudeb Panda, Saumitra Khan, Nisith Pramanik, and expelled TMC MP Anupam Hazra. Recently, Sovan Chatterjee and Baisakhi Banerjee had, too, jumped the ship from TMC to the BJP (it is, however, difficult to figure which party they currently are in). But the BJP has still not managed to convert any veteran leader of the Left Front even during these times, which can arguably be called the CPI(M)'s worst of times as far as electoral prospects are concerned.

This fact, however, has left the veteran BJP leader from the central leadership, a little displeased. Notably, the BJP leader in question isn't just any other random leader but is an influential politico himself, a trusted aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is even rumoured that he is behind the decision to appoint Sourav Ganguly as the BCCI President. His organisational skills are respected by even the Opposition politicians, as the person is responsible for several big decisions of the central government.

So what did Dilip Ghosh and the rest of the local BJP leadership come to know from this influential leader? According to sources, the leader asked them is there was any use in bringing people from the TMC since they are marred by controversies themselves. Instead, he suggested, Bengal BJP should focus on bringing in CPI(M) leaders into the fold. They are educated and well-mannered, he explained, which is good for the 'public' eye.

This piece of news, however, has left the state leaders and political commentators alike in a fix. It is indeed difficult to comprehend that the BJP, which has frequently referred to the CPI(M) with several derogatory remarks, would indeed now want the same Left leaders, who are ideally at the completely opposite ends of the spectrum. But, as has been pointed out several times before in a variety of situations (most recently in Maharashtra), there is hardly any 'ideology' when functioning in an electocracy, perhaps all there is called 'opportunism'.  Even during the Lok Sabha Polls, the CPI(M) in West Bengal, which lost a lot of its voter base that was transferred to the BJP, has been accused of siding with the saffron party to bring down the ruling TMC in the state. It is probably now time to put this notion to further test in West Bengal and see if the CPI(M) holds true to its sworn ideology or its leaders jump a sinking ship, even if it means boarding a ship on the completely opposite side of the spectrum.

According to several of the political commentators, BJP central leadership has understood the fact that it is not possible to win over West Bengal without educated leaders because of the cultural atmosphere here being completely different from that of Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, for example. People in this state are still, for the most part, rationalist, logical liberals. The majoritarian sentiment of Hindutva, as an emotion, would not work for long in this state. At the very least, the educated and modern populace would never vote for leaders who have gone on record to claim that the colour of milk is 'yellowish' because the milk of the Indian cow contains gold.  

Other political analysts, however, are of the opinion that a typical image of the 'Bengali politician' from a bygone era is still existent within the CPI(M) leaders, that can, in turn, appeal to familiar sentiments in Bengalis. A populace which has, for a large part of its culture, seen and known the dhuti-panjabi clad 'Bhadralok Marxists' like Jyoti Basu and Buddhadev Bhattacharya do not find themselves culturally associating with BJP leaders in their colourful kurtas and Jawahar coats. Besides, the organisational skills of the Left Front leaders are evident in their 34 years of unchallenged rule in West Bengal. Notably, the mass organisation and popular movements of the Left are actually studied as part of academic research. According to analysts, BJP is trying to utilise the organisational skills of the Left leaders. Saffron leaders also want to make use of the politically fertile mind of the CPI(M) leaders and organise state BJP leadership in a new, modern light. It is true that without any serious organisational efforts the BJP has managed to win 18 seats in the recently-conducted Lok Sabha Polls, but that also would not be possible every time, the saffron camp understands.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee is desperate to hold on to the state in the upcoming state assembly elections in 2021. Whatever TMC represents to the people of Bengal by that time, she will be its face and tour de force. But the plan of action is still unclear for the BJP. Even though they want to win Bengal by all means, they are not zeroed in on a clear strategy or key factor that the polls will be contested upon. In the Lok Sabha polls, the driving force was Narendra Modi who was contesting for the seat of the Prime Minister. However, in the Legislative Assembly elections, the Modi magic is not expected to work in the same degree even he comes to the state for electioneering, since people will now vote, keeping in mind local leadership. The BJP has already learned that the Modi charm is a weaning card in state assembly elections, as they have seen in the Maharashtra and Haryana polls, conducted within just five months of the Lok Sabha Elections. They fear this might happen in West Bengal, too. To compensate for a diminishing 'Modi charm' card, the BJP in Bengal needs a strong grassroots organisational base in the state, which is still lacking in the saffron camp.

On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee has started playing her 'Bengali' cards right, meanwhile, there is nothing really Bengali in the attitude of state BJP leaders. On the contrary, they have rather been alleged to have been associated with anti-Bengali forces, such as when the BJP was called 'Burrabazar Party' by a dubious Bengali nationalist outfit, the Garga Chatterjee-led 'Bangla Paksha'. Notably, Burrabazar is an area in Kolkata which is primarily dominated by Hindi-speaking locals who settled in the city from outside the Bengal, and the BJP, due to this association still sees some disdain from the educated intelligentsia of the city. In the meantime, the defection of several TMC leaders to BJP has brought into question the 'transparent governance' promised by the BJP. In this scenario, the arrival of CPI(M) leaders into the saffron fold might work as 'image makeover' for the party, according to the central BJP leadership.       

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