The BJP, aiming at a panIndia presence, is faced with the uphill task of conquering West Bengal, where it has historically been a force of no consequence. The party’s central leadership is encouraged by a jump in its vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the recent by-elections in the State. Ahead of next year’s Panchayat polls and the 2019 general election, the BJP has embarked on a mass mobilisation campaign to take on the ruling Trinamul Congress and the Left Front. In an interview to Dipankar Chakraborty, BJP national secretary in charge of West Bengal, Suresh Kumar Pujari, spoke about his party’s electoral prospects in the State and the rest of the country. Excerpts:
Q: After your recent victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly elections what is your game plan for West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala?
A: At the BJP national executive meeting recently in Odisha we reviewed the by-election results in West Bengal and the outcome of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur. In West Bengal by-polls the BJP got 55,000 votes and secured second position relegating the Left and Congress to third and fifth positions respectively. The roadmap for West Bengal has been prepared by the state unit under the guidance of the central leadership and it is being updated every three months. We are marching ahead in West Bengal, Odisha and in Kerala.
Q: But BJP leaders from West Bengal admit to lack of network and grassroots support-base for the party. Given the scenario how tough is it going to be in the state?
A: In 2014 we won two Lok Sabha seats of Darjeeling and Asansol, from where Babul Supriyo was elected. Our vote percentage also witnessed an increase. We were never leader of Opposition in Haryana with just five MLAs but we managed to win and form the government there. In Maharashtra in the last election we emerged as the single largest party and formed the government. In West Bengal TMC led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is declining fast due to the implications of scandals and scams allegedly involving TMC leaders. Law and order situation in the state is very bad. We are taking these issues to the people and hope these will help BJP perform remarkably well in 2019.
Q: How is the party preparing to face the ensuing electoral battles in West Bengal effectively?
A: We are strengthening the party at the booth level. We are trying to strengthen the areas where the BJP is strong as well as the areas where we have weaknesses. Party president Amit Shah visited West Bengal on 25 April. He visited the booths to assess the party’s prospects in the next Lok Sabha elections. We hope we will be able to push the TMC to the backyard in the 2019 elections.
Q: Before 2019, you have the Panchayat and some local body elections in urban areas coming up in West Bengal.
A: As compared to 2014 poll results, the recent by-election results show that the percentage of the BJP’s vote share has almost doubled within a span of a year. BJP is on the rise.
Q: What is the West Bengal BJP’s agenda at its 1-2 May executive meeting?
A: We will plug the loopholes and prepare for the next three months. The BJP is going to people with issues agitating the masses. The party will plan its activities for the next three months. Local polls are held on local issues. We have asked local bodies to prepare their plan of action. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election the major thrust will be on progress, development and good governance. We will go to the people with the entire progress report of the Central government’s works. Simultaneously, we will expose the misrule of the TMC government in the state.
Q: What is the party’s plan to nurture a nursery of leadership with stature in West Bengal?
A: Nurturing leaders is one aspect of the development of the party. Slowly an opinion is gaining currency in West Bengal that the CPM possibly is not a viable alternative to the TMC and the Congress will not be in a position to give an alternative government in West Bengal. I think the people are looking at BJP. People from the Left to the Congress are keen on joining the BJP so as to defeat the TMC in the next Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
Q: Has the BJP chalked out any specific plans for each of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal?
A: There are four factors ~ organisational strength, issues, roadmap and commitment to gain success ~ that are important for victory or defeat in any polls. We are preparing the roadmap accordingly for success in 2019.
Q: Given the fact that BJP was never in the picture in Kerala and West Bengal, how do you plan to make inroads in the two states?
A: We have a major task ahead. The CPM was once undefeatable in West Bengal. Day by day BJP is emerging as a natural alternative to TMC. In Kerala LDF and UDF are the dominant forces but in the 2016 assembly polls BJP polled 16 per cent popular votes. We have 12 per cent in West Bengal. That is indeed remarkable and a good foundation to take off in the two states. 2019 will be the Waterloo for the Communist parties in India. We are focusing on building on the gains made in four southern states in 2014 and to win new seats so to gain a comfortable majority in the 2019 polls.
Q: What role do you foresee for RSS which reportedly played a role in the organisation of Rama Navami in West Bengal recently?
A: Ram Navami is celebrated in West Bengal. During Durga Puja TMC did not allow immersion processions. As a result a particular section of society was annoyed. West Bengal has become the nerve-centre of fake currency notes and terrorism and address of al Qaida, Taliban and other antinational terror forces. All these put together with minority appeasement are the best instrument for the BJP to ensure TMC is defeated in the next elections.
Q: There have been attempts by all non-BJP parties to form a joint front against the BJP-led NDA in the 2019 general election. How do you see the development?
A: All such attempts by such parties in the past had come a cropper. People I think will not believe these parties who have failed time and again. BJP is not bothered; we are ready to face them alone and collectively.