KOLKATA: Around midnight on July 7, BJP president Amit Shah reached the RSS’ West Bengal headquarters on Beadon Street to chalk out the party’s 2016 poll strategy and to select a Chief Ministerial candidate.
Though many BJP national leaders were present in the state at the time, they were kept in the dark about the midnight meeting, where Shah was accompanied by the party’s national organising secretary, Ramlal, and his deputy Shivprakash. Pradip Joshi, RSS pracharak for the Eastern region, was present along with a senior leader from Andhra Pradesh and senior pracharak Adwaita Charan Datta.
All this restructuring was done by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat with a special eye on West Bengal, the message being loud and clear that the Sangh will control the state BJP unit.
The BJP has been unable to expand in the state despite a spontaneous wave against the ruling TMC. In April, the party failed miserably in the civic polls. And among the reasons for the failure were the lack of organisation in the districts, wrong choice of candidates and infighting.
A state BJP leader said, “The RSS leadership here till date was more focused on increasing membership. They were not bothered about the BJP’s political leadership in the state.”
But now, more than 40 pracharaks have been entrusted with party work in various states. Last month, a three-day RSS camp was held in Mumbai where the participants were told that the organisation’s political clout needed to be enhanced.
“That is why Shah went to the RSS headquarters in Kolkata, to obtain approval for selecting the Chief Ministerial candidate,” said the leader.
With the state BJP leadership in a quandary, having failed to project a CM pick against Mamata Banerjee, Shah decided to consult the state RSS brass.
The RSS leaders told him that a large number of people saw the saffron party as an alternative to the TMC and the Left, and therefore an able leader, who could challenge Mamata, was needed.
An RSS source said, “For a capable leadership, change is needed immediately in the state BJP. Unless a popular face is projected by the BJP, the average Bengali voters will never vote for us.” Shah conveyed this message to the new BJP observer for West Bengal, Kailash Vijaibargi.
For the CM candidate, the RSS prefers Dr Subhash Sarkar, a physician from Bankura, who had contested the Lok Sabha polls against TMC MP Moonmoon Sen and garnered a huge number of votes. But Shah told the RSS leaders that he wanted a person with a “fighting spirit” for the top job. When the name of actor-turned-politician Rupa Ganguly cropped up, many RSS leaders aired reservations about her lifestyle. Some RSS leaders felt that Rupa was the right choice to take on Mamata because of her public image and “fighting spirit”, but they wanted her to change her “lifestyle and habits”.
Kailash would be visiting the city again in the next couple of days with a specific plan to strengthen the state unit. He said, “Our organisation is weak in the rural areas but strong in the urban areas. Our aim is to strengthen it in the villages.” After Shah’s meeting with the RSS leaders, he sent a strong message to the party leaders to stop the infighting. But soon, bickering began in the state unit over Shah and Kailash’s diktats.