Modi wave alone won't help BJP's rise in Bengal

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Modi wave not enough for BJP in Bengal
New BJP chief Amit Shah has already set off for his goal to make the BJP a dominant force in Indian politics. The 50-year-old leader said soon after taking over the reins that he would strive to see the BJP win in any state that goes to the polls. Shah has a special focus on West Bengal where the BJP is due to contest Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress prestige in 2016.

No name from BJP to be included in Amit Shah's new team

But what has come as a shocker to the BJP's new leadership is that Bengal couldn't produce a single name to be inducted in Shah's new team despite being asked for it. According to a report published in Bengali daily Anandabazaar Patrika, the central leadership of the BJP was considering to include names from the state to send a positive message ahead of the civic polls scheduled this year and also prepare the groundwork for 2016, but it did not get a single referral from the Bengal leadership.

According to the BJP, the reason might be the absence of young leaders in the state who can also serve the party's cause in other parts of the country and even if there are such leaders, it is important to employ them to make the BJP powerful in the state first. Np representative from Bengal has been seen in the central leadership after Tapan Sikdar, the former Union minister who passed away recently.

Sources in the BJP said representatives from Bengal could be included in Modi's expanded council of ministers even if they are not accommodated in Shah's team, the report added.

This might be a feel-good thinking by the BJP and dealing with the situation in hand might not be as simple as it looks. The BJP's top leadership is encouraged by the fact that the party's vote-share went from a mere 5 per cent to 17 per cent in the Lok Sabha election held earlier this year and the general dissatisfaction with Mamata Banerjee government in the state. But will the same Narendra Modi wave help the saffron party repeat its 2014 feat in Bengal in 2016? There is certainly more to the story than what the eyes perceive.

BJP's rise has been made possible by exodus from Left camp

The BJP's recent rise has been made possible by the growing anti-incumbency against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The BJP's membership has increased by leaps and bounds because supporters of Opposition parties like the Left have joined it to protect themselves from the wrath of the ruling party.

In the cities, the disillusioned middle-class has voted for the BJP in the recent general election to express its displeasure with the Banerjee government's mediocre show. But how much will these bits-and-pieces sentiments ultimately help the BJP make serious electoral gains in the near future?

There were right-wing Bengali leaders but the ideology never got backing in Bengal

It is a big irony that right-wing politics has never bloomed in Bengal despite the fact that some of its big leaders who are still remembered at the national level were from this state. Take for example, Shyamaprasad Mookerjee and NC Chatterjee, the father of former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. Their kin have not given the right-wing camp the same importance and the BJP has remained a marginal force in the state throughout.

But why did the BJP fail to influence politics in Bengal like the Left, Congress or the TMC?

The Bengali society has always admired personalities who were secular in their credentials and hence was not fertile for the prosperity of the politics of secularism and communalism as is practised today. The fact that the right-wing forces did not take part in the freedom movement with which the Bengali emotion was so closely attached also kept outfits like Sangh and Mahasabhas at a distance.

The gradual rise of the Left influence after the Congress's decline and the Leftist mind's greater appeal to the Bengali mind did not allow the rightist forces to make much inroad in the politics of the state. It is this left-revolutionary cultural framework which made Bengal prominent in the days of the freedom struggle that has acted as the main deterrent against the ambition of the rightists in Bengal. The province saw the emergence of a more class-based politics because of the left legacy and not caste or religion-based polarisation as has been seen in other parts of India.

Without a strong organisation, BJP will struggle to take on Mamata in her den

With the Left going past its prime, the class-based politics gradually gave way to sharp polarisation on grounds of party politics and not religion or caste. The Trinamool Congress took advantage of this situation and humiliated the once mighty Left leadership of the 'Bhadralok' variant to come to power after a long, long time of 34 years.

BJP is seen as an alternative in Bengal today not on issues of religion or right-wing ideology

But now with the Left's replacement (not alternative) not fulfilling the expectations and Bengal sinking more in terms of economy and various social parameters, a fresh vacuum is getting prominent in the state politics, keeping the BJP interested. Hence, if the saffron party is eyeing for a more fruitful rise in the state, it is because the people in the state is perceiving it as an opportunity for the betterment of their everyday life. Factor like religion or right-wing ideology have little to do with the BJP's success in the state.

BJP has to prove itself as an alternative on challenging issues

But to establish itself as an alternative and not just a replacement, the BJP has to lay down a blueprint for the state's recovery and for that it has to bring the best minds together. True, the BJP's general membership is increasing thick and fast in the state but can that swelling membership be used for a realistic change? Can the BJP show the way by creating an alternative to the politics of land in the state which was started by the Left to its electoral advantage once? Can the BJP focus on education, traditionally the most powerful sector in Bengal, to restore its glory by means of secular credentials?

The BJP will do great if it can win at least 40-50 seats in the next assembly election to give Banerjee a tough competition. But for that, a

Modi wave might not be there in 2016, so BJP can't bank on that factor alone in Bengal

The basic challenge for the BJP is that many of the tasks that it needs to undertake in Bengal do not match naturally with its legacy and this makes it doubly difficult to put a robust ground organisation in place. The Narendra Modi factor is not enough for the BJP to script a fairy tale in Bengal, no matter how much bright it looks at the moment. Two years are a long time in politics and by the time Bengal goes to its next assembly poll, there is every chance that Modi government at the Centre will gather some moss.

The state has to find local leaders and organisers, otherwise it won't be easy to take on Mamata

The BJP has to begin nurturing its organisation in the state at the earliest and that organisation can only be led by somebody from the state. The worry is that the state unit hasn't found any leader of that stature and all the advantage that the party has gained in the general election could be lost in no time.

The iron is hot. But where is the hammer?

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