BJP’s smart strategy to field MPs in Bengal polls

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·4-min read

The Bharatiya Janata Party has released another list of candidates for the West Bengal Assembly elections. The list, which includes the names of 4 sitting Members of Parliament, has caused a lot of flurry in the media.

Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta will contest from Tarakeshwar, Union Minister and Asansol Lok Sabha MP Babul Surpiyo from Tollygunje, Hooghly Lok Sabha MP Locket Chatterjee from Chunchura, and Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik from Dinhata.

At the time of announcement of candidates of Trinamool Congress on March 5, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had quipped that she may contest from Tollygunje as well.

Although the party had announced the name of Aroop Biswas from the seat there is a strong buzz in Kolkata that Mamata may contest from Tollygunje as well after her injury. TMC considers Tolygunje a safe seat.

“Her leg is bandaged, which will restrict her movement for some days. This will also restrict her campaigning in Nandigram,” a source from TMC said to Sunday Guardian.

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The BJP has taken these rumours seriously and has fielded a strong candidate to pin down Mamata in the seat, if she so decides, to contest from two seats. It doesn’t want to give her a free run.

While Babul Supriyo exuded confidence to win in Tollygunje, Dasgupta accepted the fact that he hasn’t had any electoral experience but with the help of cadres and the BJP parivar, he would cross the barrier. Locket said that it is the party's order and we have to do what the party asks of us.

The Trinamool Congress jeered the BJP for drafting MPs, and even a union minister as candidates for the West Bengal elections as well as taking multiple rounds to announce its list of contenders.

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The Trinamool Congress charged that the BJP doesn’t even have candidates for all the 294 seats and is dreaming of winning the state elections. The BJP, however, brushed off the charge that the party lacked strong local candidates and said that the people of Bengal were "the real candidates".

The BJP is relying on star power as the contest in Bengal has now predominantly turned into a personality contest between Mamata and Modi. It was known from the beginning that BJP doesn’t have winnable candidates on all the seats. This is why it has been on a hiring spree and on-boarding disgruntled leaders from all parties including TMC, Congress and CPM. Some big guns like Suvendu Adhikari have also joined the BJP.

A similar strategy was followed in Uttar Pradesh 2017 elections as well. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s clear thought process is that if you don’t have strong candidates, poach them from outside.

In a contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee, one-third people would still take into account the local candidate profile while voting. This is why you need big leaders/popular faces to contest.

Putting up MPs for MLA elections is a low risk strategy. Even if an individual loses, he/she still retains their seat in Parliament. This shows the seriousness of BJP to win the elections at any cost. It also puts the head of the senior leaders/MPs in line, with the message that they need to perform.

Since an MP has influence over seven Vidhan sabha seats, BJP hopes that their contesting will also have a positive impact on nearby seats of the area.

Three of the MPs have been fielded in South Bengal, Tarkeshwar, Tollygunj and Chunchura which is very crucial for BJP. It is considered as a stronghold of TMC and has 167 seats. BJP had failed to make inroads in this region even during their stupendous performance in 2019 general elections. Party hopes their candidature will charge up the cadre.

All these seats also are urban in nature. As per initial opinion polls, BJP is struggling in urban areas, and through their candidature, the party hopes it will provide a fillip to their prospects.

The BJP had swept the Hills region during the Lok Sabha elections. However, last year the regional party and its ally Gorkha Janmukti Morcha quit NDA. This region is a stronghold of BJP and it fears loss of seats in the 27 seats there due to this factor. Nishit Pramanik has been fielded from Dinhata due to this reason.

To sum up, the BJP has a well thought-out strategy in fielding sitting sitting MPs in Bengal. The fact that it doesn’t have winnable candidates for all seats is not a secret and is a well-known fact.

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