BJP is sensing a huge opportunity in Bengal. On Saturday party chief JP Nadda flagged off the first of five “parivartan” yatras in the state. On Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited it for the second time in two weeks. In fact BJP is leaving no stone unturned – from laying claim to the legacy of Netaji Subhas Bose to promising new infra projects and new jobs – to make the lotus bloom in Bengal. And most tellingly, the party has seen a steady stream of TMC leaders join its ranks in the last few months.
On the one hand this underlines that BJP has the tailwinds and has potentially solved its old problem of lacking charismatic Bengali faces – especially after former TMC ministers Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee switched sides. On the other hand there is growing disquiet within the party over the new inductees, with the old guard feeling marginalised. This recently forced BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya to announce that the party was halting “mass joinings” of leaders from TMC. Besides, there is a perception that many of the TMC defectors were anyway facing anti-incumbency in their respective constituencies and would not have got tickets for the forthcoming election from their old party.
There are also apprehensions that inducting TMC members accused of corruption and extortion – charges BJP has been levelling against the Mamata Banerjee government – could prove a costly stain on the lotus. Finally, there is resentment among grassroots BJP cadre now having to work with their former political rivals. In fact, there have been several clashes between the BJP old-timers and new entrants. But even as BJP now becomes more circumspect about new inductees Mamata will keep raising headwinds for its project by emphasising that the turncoats have entered “BJP washing machine” black.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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