KOLKATA: As the BJP made stunning inroads in the Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, winning an unprecedented 18 out of 42 Lok Sabha constituencies, IANS takes a look at the top five generals of the saffron outfit in Bengal who helped the party cut deep into Mamata Banerjee's bastion.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which swept across India in the Lok Sabha polls by winning 301 out of the 542 Lok Sabha seats, also registered a whopping increase in its vote share in Bengal from 17 per cent in 2014 to over 40 per cent this time.
The BJP started devising its strategy for the state soon after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, appointing Kailash Vijayvargiya as the party General Secretary in-charge of West Bengal.
Vijayvargiya, an astute politician from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, played a pivotal role in BJP's growth in Bengal and worked as a bridge between the party's state and central leadership.
Leading from the front, he was at the forefront of a number of protest demonstrations organised by the BJP against the Bengal government, even sustaining injury once.
The 63-year-old former Madhya Pradesh Minister played a key role from behind the scenes in poaching Mukul Roy from the Trinamool and provided him the much-needed backing to ensure the defection of a number of leaders from the ruling party in the state, several of whom were made candidates in the Lok Sabha elections.
A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak loaned to the BJP, Shiv Prakash is now one of the joint General Secretaries (organisation) in the party helping General Secretary (organisation) Ram Lal coordinate with the RSS. Given special responsibilities to look into the organisational matters in West Bengal as an assistant to Vijayvargiya, Shiv Prakash worked to strengthen the RSS branches and even the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.
He helped remove the BJP's organisational shortcomings in the state and gave leadership in setting up a well-oiled election machinery by putting in place teams to ensure strong booth-level organisations.
The duo also put Suresh Pujari -- one of the party's national secretaries in Odisha -- in charge of the western districts of Bengal.
Former Trinamool Congress MP and party's second in-command after Mamata Banerjee, Mukul Roy joined the saffron camp in 2017. Over the last one-and-a-half years, the seasoned politician played perhaps the most significant role in taking advantage of the erosion and discontent within the state's ruling party.
Roy, well known for his organisational skills and close connect with the Trinamool's grassroot level leaders, was given the responsibility of the chief election strategist by the BJP in Bengal. And he did not disappoint.
Being an old lieutenant of Banerjee and one of the key architects of the party's rise in the state back in 2011 when the Trinamool came to power after overthrowing the Left Front regime, Roy helped spread the BJP's reach to the grassroots level of North 24 Parganas and Nadia, besides luring a number of Trinamool MPs and MLAs to the BJP.
Barrackpore MLA Arjun Singh, Cooch Behar youth leader Nisith Pramanik, Bolpur MP Anupam Hazra and Bishnupur MP Soumitra Khan -- all came to the saffron camp at Roy's behest and were given tickets for the Lok Sabha polls. Singh, Khan and Pramanik have won from their respective constituencies, while Hazra finished second from the tough Jadavpur seat.
State BJP President Dilip Ghosh was also pivotal in rejuvenating the party after taking charge. Known for his provocative and fiery speeches, Ghosh is extremely popular among the party activists for his straight as an arrow attitude and his ability to call a spade a spade.
Ghosh, who worked as the in-charge of RSS in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was chosen as the party's Bengal unit President in 2015. In 2016, he fought the state Assembly elections from Kharagpur Sadar and defeated veteran Congress leader Gyan Singh Sohanpal. He tasted yet another success this time, when he won the difficult Midnapore Lok Sabha seat defeating veteran politician Manas Bhunia of the Trinamool.
Since becoming the state chief, Ghosh played a pivotal role in strengthening the party infrastructure and was involved in the process of short-listing the Bengal candidates' list for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls that was sent to the party's central committee in Delhi.
Though from time to time he has been at loggerheads with Roy, and was seemingly unhappy at some of the Lok Sabha nominations, his personality and attitude gave strength to the BJP activists across the state to counter Trinamool's aggressiveness.
BJP's national executive member and Bengali speaking RSS pracharak Arvind Menon also played a significant role in BJP's 'Mission Bengal' after he was appointed in January as co-incharge and observer for the Lok Sabha elections in the state, reporting directly to BJP President Amit Shah. Menon first focused on north Bengal, and worked to strengthen the grassroots level organisation from Darjeeling to Malda.