The Bharatiya Janata Party has abjured the fielding of turncoats for elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation in December. The other striking feature of the civic election nominations must be that as many as 50 women have been given tickets.
It is pretty obvious that the party is intent on effecting a course correction after the drubbing it got in the West Bengal Assembly election a few months ago. Apparent too is the preference for old-timers and loyalists instead of turncoats, many of whom are intrinsically opportunists.
This must rank as a clear deviation from the strategy that the BJP had followed prior to the Assembly election, for which it had nominated more than 140 defectors for the 294-member House. That praxis of nominations was then resented by influential sections within the party, and eventually by voters on polling day.
As it turned out, these candidates were for the most part defeated. Ahead of the civic polls in Kolkata, the change in approach underscores the anxiety to check further dissent in the BJP, which is yet to form a base in West Bengal.
“For the civic polls in Kolkata, we have been able to field our workers from the grassroots as candidates,” said the vice-president of the state BJP, Pratap Banerjee, before announcing the names. Arguably, the Kolkata list is a critical olive branch to numerous workers and leaders of the BJP who had been bitterly critical of what they called the “surrender to Trinamul turncoats” in the last electoral essay.
“We are happy with this list. Even if we don’t win, we will give a good fight because deserving candidates have been fielded,” said Mr Banerjee. The signal of a “good fight” will be difficult to digest for party loyalists for it suggests a degree of resignation after the rout in the Assembly election.
In areas under the KMC, the BJP won barely 29 per cent of the vote against Trinamul’s 60 per cent, which means the party could on that basis claim nine municipal wards, with 134 of 144 going to the Trinamul. There is the additional factor that while the party’s control over power in Delhi could be dangled as a carrot before the state’s voters, with the promise of greater development, the civic body’s fortunes are impacted by those who rule Nabanna.
And if at the end of the exercise, turncoats decide to return to the parent party, as they did after the Assembly poll, the BJP might be correct to conclude it is better off with loyalists who may lose but will live to fight another day for the party.