Dear BJP, You Are Still the Underdog for Bengal 2021
Congratulations for your historic performance in Bengal. This definitely is an epoch making event in political history of WB. You finally are in a position to reclaim the lost heritage of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in his home state. Your supporters rightfully compare this as Trinamool’s breakthrough performance in 2009. They are hoping to repeat what Mamata did in 2011 on 2021. I personally did not dare to dream for more than 5 for you; however your karyakartas did. And as the saying goes: fortune favours the brave.
To battle the ruling party’s violent thug squad in Bengal is no mean task. Those of us who grew up during Mamata’s mentor CPIM’s days of red terror, know very well the nature of political violence in Bengal. We witnessed how the once mighty Congress was reduced to a mere signboard by this violence. You yourself remained a fringe player even during the glory days of Ram Mandir movement. Now that you managed to breach the firewall of ruling party once, there will be no turning back for you. Your battle with Mamata is a reality that Bengal will experience now.
At this juncture while you are overwhelmed with confidence, as a well-wisher allow me to offer a reality check: you still are the underdog in this upcoming battle. Now this may come as a pessimistic view given the absolute dominance you enjoy in the national level politics, series of victories you have been achieving since 2013, your organisational strength and the financial might of yours; but a careful consideration of the upcoming battle and the required logistics will underscore a few major handicaps that you have. Admittedly all these are based on traditional understanding of Bengal politics and Amit Shah is known for dismantling opposition who plans according to traditional understanding of politics. I as a well wisher would like you to be careful.
First of all the battle is going to be violent. This is a fact that you already realise. Now how do you fight this? It is well known that RSS is not as strong in Bengal as it is in some other states. So you do not get a ready made ideologically well synchronised cadre base. To overcome this you are absorbing CPIM’s organisation and cadres lock stock and barrel. However are these people ideologically committed to the BJP’s cause? You may point out that they worked for you out of spite towards Trinamool and brought 18 this time and this trend may very well continue. However this was an election with the larger than life figure of Narendra Modi as the central issue and this acted as an added motivation for many. Is there a guarantee that things will go according to plan and there will be a “hawa” of some sort on 2021? When Trinamool will fight the violent battle for survival then having large amount of cadres originally trained with heady dose of red book is a definite negative. While their hatred for Mamata is confirmed, their loyalty towards you won’t be. They are not the saffron clad RSS swayamsevaks; and them you will miss.
Secondly, and related to first, are the left voters who voted for BJP this time going to continue to vote? Can you count on them? The vote difference between BJP and Trinamool is still skewed by 3% in favour of Trinamool. Voters voted for you this time alright but can you retain them given that many core CPIM voters are heavily ideological people? CPIM may very well try to give up a last fight for survival on 2021. Especially without the motivation of electing Modi as PM, there is a high chance that some of these votes may revert back to them.
Thirdly remember Nitish 2015? If there is any one lesson from recent elections then that will be that they are ever more presidential; there will be no Narendra Modi contesting for CM. If there is wide spread hatred against Mamata on 2021 then being the party of Narendra Modi with disciplined cadres may be enough. However if the ground reality on 2021 becomes that the emotion against Mamta is limited to level of fatigue then the scenario changes completely. And this situation needs to be considered seriously. One should learn from the mistake made by opposition on 2019 Loksabha election; they assumed that there is a wide spread hatred against Modi. Their assumption was not politically crazy either; it depended on farmers distress, dalit agitation etc, the standard political wisdom.
You should not repeat the same mistake by assuming that people can not wait to see Mamata ousted. Against Mamata BJP has no inspiring CM candidate yet. Mukul Roy is being viewed as Bengal’s Himanta Biswa Sarma, however he is not up against an about to retire CM. Didi has lots of politics left in her and she fights fiercely. Also like any great politician, her political intuition is excellent. I doubt Mukul Roy’s, or as a matter of fact even Narendra Modi’s intuition matches her’s when it comes to Bengal politics. Both personality wise and capability wise she can defeat BJP’s team effort. So she being the central figure may put you in the same position as against Nitish in 2015.
Fourthly it is unlikely that anti BJP parties will give up the hope of eventually trumping chemistry with arithmetic. Given the Lutyens’ vested interested in keeping left alive, you may end up facing an alliance of Mamata, CPIM and Congress. They know how much Bangle matter for you. Why should not they plan to make it your Waterloo. Now once may frown upon possibility of Trinamool and CPIM tying up however we live in historic times. I have absolutely no idea how left voters may react to this. However pragmatic people rarely give up chance to grab power. If these three unites then you may gain some in terms of political narrative however the arithmetic may become unsurmountable.
Fifth, Indian nationalism and Hindutva both were born in Bengal. However both look culturally distant from Bengal at least in their presentation, if not in form and content. Astute politician Mamata will play the Bengali regionalism card. You look extremely ill prepared to face that assault. Through her donations Mamata controls Durga Puja, the nerve centre of Bengali cultural life. She also controls the Tollywood. Bengalis are sucker for intellectual-cultural narratives. It is very much possible to offer a nationalism translated in Bangla. However you are yet to do it.
Finally the M factor. It goes without saying that with 27% vote, muslims are going to influence Bengal election. They will vote against you. How do you plan to deal with that? NRC is going to be a double edged sword. The sentiment about it among Bengali Hindus may not be what your central leadership expects it to be. It needs a very careful planning and a good grasp of both ghoti and Bangal discourse. You have to avoid pissing of either of the two. It will be extremely difficult for you to get any part of Muslim vote in Bengal because one of your chief agenda will be minority appeasement politics of Mamata and it is unlikely that you will be able to motivate Hindus just by Ram Navami processions.
These factors remain your handicap. Before you even start dreaming about capturing Writers/ Navanna, start working overnight on these.