Why West Bengal Matters to the BJP?

1 month ago 31

A total of 132 BJP leaders, including Union ministers, MPs, chief ministers and senior party people, have been campaigning in West Bengal while 15 leaders are camping in the state for the entire duration of the election.

Illustration by Siddhant Jumde

After a stellar show in the 2019 general election, winning 18 of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the BJP emerged as the principal challenger to CM Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in West Bengal. In the run-up to the assembly election, which got under way on March 27 and enters its fourth phase on April 10, Union home minister Amit Shah had said, “Unishe half, ekushe Saaf (halved in 2019, eradicated in 2021)” about the TMC’s diminishing influence.

The BJP has been trying to stoke and fan Hindu nationalist sentiment and has to that end, and to counter Mamata’s brand of regional sub-nationalism, variously invoked Bengali icons like Vivekananda, Aurobindo, ‘Netaji’ Subhas Chandra Bose and Syama Prasad Mookerjee, among others.

Shah, along with BJP national president J.P. Nadda, has been beefing up the party’s infrastructure in the state, grooming local leaders and engineering defections from the TMC. A victory in Bengal is highly coveted and will mean much to the BJP, its ideological parent RSS and to campaign architect Shah himself. Most commentators believe a win would cement his position as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political successor besides being a fillip to the party’s expansion plans in the south and in Punjab.

The party’s call for “Ebar Bangla (this time, Bengal)”, marks a crucial political moment for the BJP and Shah.