BJP to fight Bengal elections without projecting CM face: Kailash Vijayvargiya
Kolkata, Aug 23: The BJP will not project any chief ministerial candidate for West Bengal Assembly polls and bank on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development plank to fight against the TMC, the party's Bengal minder, Kailash Vijayvargiya, said.
The saffron camp will pick its chief minister, once voted to power, he said on Sunday.
"As of now, it has been decided that we won't project anyone as our chief ministerial face. We will fight under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and win the election. Once voted to power, the legislative party in consultation with central leadership will decide on its chief ministerial choice," Vijayvargiya told PTI.
Asked if the party has anyone in mind for the post, he said that "time has the answer". "Right now, our target is to win 220-230 seats in the 294-member Assembly. We will achieve our target as we did in the Lok Sabha polls. The issue of projecting a CM face won't be a factor," he said.
Incidentally, in 2016, too, the BJP had fought the Assembly polls without any CM face. But a lot of water has flown under the Howrah Bridge over the last four years, with the saffron party having emerged as the prime challenger of the ruling TMC in Bengal, by pushing the traditional opposition parties -- the CPI (M) and the Congress -- to distant third and fourth positions.
The saffron camp reached its all-time high in Bengal politics last year when it stunned political pundits by bagging 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, four less than the ruling TMC, and with a staggering vote share of 41 per cent.
According to BJP sources, the decision of anointing a chief ministerial face before elections could be a double-edged sword for the party, so it would "be wiser to rely on the negatives of the opposition camp" to win the elections.
"We will fight elections on the development plank of Narendra Modi and by highlighting the failures of the TMC government. Elections are won and lost depending on the performance of the incumbent government. That is what had happened in 1977 and 2011 when the Left Front was voted to power and also when it lost the polls," a senior BJP leader said.
In several states where the BJP has seized power, such as Haryana, Maharashtra, Manipur, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, the party didn't have any CM candidate during the polls, he said. Noted political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty also echoed the same sentiments.
"If you take a look at elections, both at the state-level and the Centre, a face is not always that important, it's the negative votes and anti-incumbency against the present-day government that makes the difference," Chakraborty told PTI.
According to state BJP sources, a few names have been doing rounds in the party, but the leadership is yet to take a final call on the matter and will wait for the poll results.
"Dilip Ghosh tops the chart, as it is during his tenure as the state BJP chief that the party witnessed such a meteoric rise. He has a strong RSS background, too. The names of Swapan Dasgupta, MP and a noted member of the BJP intellectual cell, and Tathagatha Roy, former governor and ex-state president, have also been doing the rounds. But nothing has been finalized.
"Now, whether the party top brass has any hidden trump card up its sleeves, only time will tell," a senior state BJP leader said. When contacted, Ghosh said, "The BJP in Bengal is not driven by an individual, unlike the TMC." Tathagatha Roy, who is hoping to make a comeback in active politics, and Dasgupta declined to comment.
According to BJP sources, the anointment of a chief ministerial candidate would open up a pandora's box in the party's state unit.
"The issue of zeroing in on a CM can cut both ways; if you anoint someone, he will have to carry the onus of both victory and defeat. Secondly, the other factions might not take it positively, and it might adversely affect our poll prospects," another senior state BJP leader said.
The Trinamool Congress, however, feels it would be tough for the opposition to dislodge the Mamata Banerjee government without projecting a credible face as her contender.
"Bengal has always voted for a credible leader, be it in the opposition camp or the ruling party. This has been the trend since the days of B C Roy, Siddhartha Sankar Roy, Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and now Mamata Banerjee. The BJP not having a credible face against Banerjee will be an added advantage for us," senior TMC MP and spokesperson Sougata Roy told PTI.
Senior state Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said a party needs to depend on its organizational strength and the "anti-government wave" to win elections, in the absence of a CM candidate.
The CPI (M), however, feels that more than the face, it is the "policies and the ideologies" of a party that make all the difference.