Why BJP Will Fight Bengal 2021 ‘Under PM Modi’, With No CM Face

Amidst intense speculation on a number of “contenders” for the role, BJP has decided to not front anybody as CM.

3 min read

The BJP has announced that it will not project a chief ministerial face in the upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections, scheduled for 2021.

The party’s national general secretary and in-charge for the Bengal unit, Kailash Vijayvargiya, made the announcement, saying that the party will fight the upcoming elections “under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.”

For a while now, there has been intense speculation over who the saffron party could front as a chief ministerial face in Bengal, against Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Over time, several names have been thrown around as “contenders” for a spot on the poster opposite CM Banerjee. These include those of West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, MP Babul Supriyo, former Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy and even cricketer Sourav Ganguly! In fact, the name of a monk from Ramakrishna Mission was also doing the rounds for a while.

These reports were accompanied by that of a power struggle between the pro-Dilip Ghosh and the anti-Dilip Ghosh factions in the state BJP.

BJP insiders say that these reports were damaging to the party’s image and also giving the Trinamool an opportunity to take a dig by saying that the BJP is a house in disarray.

The decision to make the announcement, about PM Modi leading the charge, is one of the things being done to mitigate this situation. Others also say that projecting anybody as a CM candidate now would most definitely cause problems within the party ranks.

Now that it is clear that there will be no one person taking on Mamata, the BJP seems to be on its way to implement two clear strategies.

‘Mamata Vs Modi’ Personality Contest

The first strategy, of course, is to replicate what worked in Lok Sabha 2019. A clear ‘Mamata vs Modi’ personality contest, in which, as long as he was on the ballot, Modi seemed to come out on top.

Given Banerjee’s overwhelming personality cult, fielding a chief ministerial face who might not match up could have cost the BJP even in places where it has already made inroads.

A battle between a regional heavyweight and Modi, therefore, seems to be the best bet and has been a pattern the BJP has followed in several states, like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and Maharashtra, with mixed success.

Mobilise Anti-Incumbency Against Mamata

The second strategy is to mobilise the anti-incumbency factor against Banerjee.

A reading of the Bengal BJP’s recent campaign literature shows that this strategy is already in the stage of implementation.

Subjects like cut money and the syndicate raj are constantly brought up and TMC’s alleged corruption seems to be the poll plank that the BJP is banking on.

Their latest campaign, ‘Aamaar Poribaar, BJP Poribaar’ or My Family, BJP Family, aims to show how every member of an average Bengal family has been affected by TMC misrule.

As an immediate measure, however, will this announcement help quell rumours of in-fighting within the BJP? Well, as of now, the party is looking to build an image in the state that is larger than its regional leaders.

But, with the TMC constantly calling BJP a “party of outsiders,” it remains to be seen whether not fielding a son-of-the-soil could pave the way for further attacks.

There's also another problem. While a ‘Modi vs Mamata’ battle may have worked well for the BJP at the Lok Sabha level, it may not be that easy at the state level.

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