'CM face may be an issue for BJP in West Bengal polls'

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP took its tally of seats from 2 to 18 and vote share of 17 to 40 per cent in just four years
Last Updated 31 January 2021, 11:07 IST

The BJP's major problem in West Bengal will be its chief ministerial face for the 2021 Assembly elections, according to a new book which also claims the party does not have a leader who can match the mass appeal of Mamata Banerjee.

In states like Uttar Pradesh, the BJP achieved success without projecting any chief ministerial candidate but will this be possible in West Bengal, journalist Sambit Pal asks in his book The Bengal Conundrum: The Rise of the BJP and the Future of the TMC.

As West Bengal grapples with tumultuous times -- from the controversy surrounding the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic -- on the cusp of this crucial election, the BJP and the TMC are rolling their dices to win the strategic battle.

"The BJP's major problem in Bengal will be the chief ministerial face for 2021 assembly election. There is already an internal feud on this issue," Pal argues.

"The names of former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, Rajya Sabha member and journalist Swapan Dasgupta and even a monk of Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Kripakarananda, have already come up in media reports. Former governor of Tripura and Meghalaya and former BJP state president, Tathagata Roy, also openly threw his hat in the ring, expressing his desire to be the chief ministerial candidate," he writes.

BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya has, however, asserted that the party would not go to the assembly elections with any chief ministerial candidate.

"The Bengal BJP has no such leader who can match the mass leader that Mamata Banerjee is. The TMC also knows this will be an advantage for them," the author claims.

"While the BJP is all set to take up the issues of TMC's corruption, syndicate raj, bhatija-raj (targeting Abhishek Banerjee), Muslim appeasement and Mamata's opposition to NRC-CAA, Mamata Banerjee is depending on her fighter image and on rousing the Bengali sentiment," the book, published by Bloomsbury India, says.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP took its tally of seats from 2 to 18 and vote share of 17 to 40 per cent in just four years. A number of TMC leaders, including MPs and MLAs have joined the BJP recently.

Banerjee has been asserting that only the TMC, being a Bengal-based political party, has the right to rule the state instead of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led BJP.

Pal says there has been a sharp shift from politics over economic policies and livelihood to identity politics in the last decade in West Bengal.

"In 2007-11, people in Bengal were discussing about rights and livelihood. The discussion was on the creation of jobs, farmland acquisition for industries and SEZs and investment in the state. In 2019-20, the discussion revolves around religious and social polarisation and corruption in the ruling party," he says.

The author claims that even though poll strategist Prashant Kishor has been trying his best to revive Mamata's as well as the party's image, "corruption at the grassroots level could not be eradicated completely."

(Published 31 January 2021, 11:07 IST)

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