The Bharatiya Janata Party's West Bengal unit received a much needed shake-up to arouse it from its slumber during Union Home Minister Amit Shah's visit to the state recently.
According to insiders, Shah, the former national President of the party, made it clear to state leaders that they are free to quit if they are dissatisfied with instructions from the top, and should only make their dissatisfaction public after quitting. The other option is to discuss the matter with the top leadership in New Delhi.
"Shah didn't seem too concerned with Babul Supriyo's defection to the Trinamool Congress. Rather, during closed door meetings with the state leadership, he cited Supriyo's example as Supriyo was irked after after he no longer remained a Union Minister.
"Shah is said to have told leaders in West Bengal how the top leadership knew that he would defect if not given a ministerial berth. Supriyo could have been accommodated and he would have remained with the BJP. But then, that is not how the BJP works, the party's No. 2 made it clear. Organisational work is of greater importance and that is where commitment comes in. Supriyo didn't have that level of commitment," a senior party source in Delhi said.
Over the last few months, the BJP's state leadership has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Dilip Ghosh, former state President, was irked after he lost the position, despite being appointed a national Vice-President of the party. Balurghat MP Sukanta Majumdar was appointed state president and Ghosh made his objections clear in public.
There is also an ongoing tussle between Ghosh and Suvendu Adhikari, the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, due to their differences.
Ghosh is from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and contested his first elections as a BJP candidate from the Kharagpur Sadar Assembly Constituency in 2016 and won and in 2019, won the Medinipur Lok Sabha constituency to became a Member of Parliament.
"Adhikari, on the other hand, was a close aide of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the Nandigram crisis. He was also an MLA and minister in the state before he split ways with the Trinamool Congress before the 2021 Assembly elections in the state and contested as a BJP candidate from the Nandigram constituency. He defeated Mamata Banerjee, who contested this seat and a legend was born. People like Ghosh, however, don't fully trust people like Adhikari who are not from the Sangh. Hence the rift. The top BJP leadership, however, knows that Adhikari is a face the party needs if it wants to repeat its performance of bagging at least 18 seats in the state in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections," the leader in Delhi said.
No wonder, Ghosh has been put in place and asked to develop the organisation at the grassroots level along with Majumdar, who can handle affairs in north Bengal.
While barely, two years are left for the 2024 polls, but the BJP in the state is yet to get its act in order. Political pundits may say that Parliamentary elections are held on national issues and not on local ones. But there is a problem here.
The Trinamool remains contained to the state of West Bengal and there is little possibility of a credible Third Front emerging at the Centre. The common man in West Bengal will then have to choose between drastic economic reforms that the BJP wants and the doles granted by the Trinamool, notwithstanding that the state's debt stands at nearly Rs 5.5 lakh crore.
"Shah, during his visit, made it clear that the state BJP has to start working on people's minds about how there has been no industrialisation in the state and jobs are not being generated. The booth level worker will have to learn about how free rations (that ultimately get sold in the market) and payments into bank accounts don't help in the long run. There is a limit to how many Toto and Auto Rickshaw drivers can make sustainable earnings. Industry is the only hope. The Centre's policies will have to be explained clearly. For this, the state leadership will have to work together," a state BJP office bearer said on condition of anonymity.