KOLKATA: With eyes firmly fixed on the next Assembly polls due in two years, an ambitious Bharatiya Janata Party is now going all out to strengthen the party at booth level in all the 294 West Bengal constituencies by leveraging its ongoing membership drive.
"We are concentrating on the booths. Our membership drive is on. We are using it to strengthen the party at the booth level. Our organisation will become strong only if we have a strong booth level presence across the state," BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha told IANS.
The BJP had come up with a spectacular show in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, bagging an unprecedented 18 of the 42 seats in the state, where it had got only two seats in 2014.
However, the party leaders have had little hesitation in admitting in private conversations that the success came more due to a negative vote against the Trinamool "misrule" than to any organisational miracle on the BJP's part.
In fact, in some of the seats like Hooghly where the party won, the results left even the top state leaders surprised, as the BJP hardly had a strong organisational set-up in those areas.
It is in this backdrop that the party is trying to recruit at least 40 thousand vistaraks (full time workers) who would go beyond their own areas and carry out a door-to-door campaign to enrol members from booth to booth.
"The booth to booth drive has started from July 23. Last time we had 42 lakh members. This time we are targeting a member count of over one crore in West Bengal.
"This is our one-point programme now. Intense training is on, and the entire party from top to bottom is engaged in the job," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh told IANS.
Once the membership drive is complete, the party would begin its organisational election and complete the enire process by December.
Since the Lok Sabha elections, a host of leaders and public representatives, mainly from the Trinamool Congress and a few from the Congress and the CPI-M, have crossed over to the BJP.
But on the other side, some of them have already made the return journey back to the Trinamool. Besides, the inclusion of controversial characters like Trinamool MLA Monirul Islam has triggered deep resentment among BJP old-timers.
To save the party from any further embarrassment, the BJP top leadership has decided that Ghosh would from now on vet every proposal to join its fold.
Ghosh said lot of applications have been received.
"Even now, lot of people want to join. I have told them to be sure about their decision, and tell us when they are ready to join. We are making it clear to them that they would have to cope with lot of intimidation and threats from the administration if they come to our fold," he said.
Taking a dig at Trinamool, he said those in the state's ruing party had become "too overweight" to fight under tough situations.
"On the other hand, lakhs of our workers are working in such adverse situation. They are being beaten up, and imprisoned," said Ghosh, now a Lok Sabha member from Midnapore.
In the wake of a substantial number of municipal councillors returning to Trinamool less than two months after they joined the BJP, Ghosh made a veiled criticism of his party leaders who have been vigorously trying to engineer defections from other parties.
"Such politics doesn't yield dividends. We won so many parliamentary seats without any of these defectors. After that some people in our party felt these people should be taken. But there are various problems. Not everybody can adjust to a a an ideology based party like ours, and our strict disciplinary standards.
"I have no idea why these people have joined, and why those in our party got these people to join us. I also have no idea about the talks that preceded their joining. I don't even know these people.," he said.
At the same breath, Ghosh alleged that the Trinamool was using the police to harass and threaten many of those who joined his party.
"Some people are going back because there is pressure on them. The police are trying to intimidate them, Their houses are being damaged, cases have been filed against them. Not everybody can withstand such pressure," said the 54 year old leader.
Iterating his party was on the right track as far as its plans in the state are concerned, Ghosh gloated over the recent victory of the Trinamool led panel in the Calcutta High Court Bar Association elections.
"It shows that the intelligentsia and all sections of the society want BJP to win," he added.