Shock, dismay as fortress Bengal breached by BJP



By Abantika Ghosh, Liz Mathew Ravik Bhattacharya Fortress Bengal was considered invincible. So in the run-up to 2019, when BJP president Amit Shah said his party would win 23 of 42 seats in West Bengal, few took him seriously. But Shah and his lieutenants, party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and organisation joint general secretary Shiv Prakash, kept chipping away before the BJP launched its final onslaught, breaching the Trinamool Congress citadel and making deep inroads. Turning the TMC war cry on its head, the BJP replaced At last count Thursday evening, the BJP was leading in 18 of 42 constituencies, doubling its voteshare in the state from 18 per cent in 2014 (when it won two seats) to nearly 40 per cent. Confirming their worst fears, the Left parties drew a blank and the Congress managed only one seat. The CPM vote share in Bengal plunged from 22.96 per cent in 2014 to 6.54 per cent. But the shock and dismay was greater in the TMC, its cadres still coming to terms with the BJP penetrations into their home turf. Two-term MP Ratna De Nag of TMC was trailing first-time contestant Locket Chatterjee of BJP in Hooghly, and in the Congress stronghold of Malda, BJP In these electoral swings lies the story of the BJP The BJP left no stone unturned to provide legal, other support to its besieged workers who fought Trinamool cadres and a slew of FIRs. In the build-up to 2019, the BJP made most of the perceived resentment against Banerjee Aware of what the BJP was up to, the TMC chief tried to introduce her own version of the Hindutva narrative, one that invoked the culture and traditions unique to the state For the BJP, winning Bengal was more an ideological dream than an electoral victory. Many in the BJP consider it the party Also, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the BJP The BJP started working in Bengal ever since it was swept to power in 2014. Vijayvargiya and Shiv Prakash were sent to oversee party efforts in the state in 2015. The 2016 assembly elections were a dampener because their vote share fell to about 10 per cent from 18 per cent in 2014. Unfazed, they stuck to their plans. Both Shiv Prakash and Vijayvargiya worked on social combinations, resolved internal issues within the organisation and scouted for the right people to work on the ground. The growth of the organisation strength was meteoric. From 452 mandal committees in 2015, it went up to 1,280. In four years, it was ready with 12,407 shakti kendra, 10,266 shakti kendra pramukhs and 58,084 committees. The state was divided into five segments for managing the Lok Sabha constituencies. The party won 18 per cent votes in the panchayat elections in 2018, despite the TMC This gave a new momentum to the party and became the pivot for a concerted campaign associating TMC with violence. They were either scared or disliked us. But our consistent campaign that started from the mandal-level gradually changed the situation, Both Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi devoted a major part of their campaign time to Bengal. They addressed 15 rallies each in the state. Both sought to take advantage of the To widen its net, the BJP tapped the Left cadres who were being hounded by the TMC. According to a BJP leader, groups of Left cadres would approach BJP leaders to pledge support. Our party chief has always said that Baam (Left) and Ram (BJP) are working together in Bengal, These are still early hours but if the leads are anything to go by, this battle has been a semi-final of sorts for the TMC ahead of the 2021 assembly elections in the state. Two years is a long time in politics but Banerjee has much to introspect about. As the leads increased, she tweeted: But all losers are not losers. We have to do a complete review. And then we will share out views with you all. Let the counting process be completely fully and VVPATs matched.\u201d