NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stunned the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the Lok Sabha elections, winning 18 out of the 42 seats. What followed was unprecedented post-poll violence. In an interview, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh shares the party’s plans for the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections. Edited excerpts:
Bengal has witnessed unprecedented post-poll clashes. Why is it so?
The TMC in Bengal is trying to subvert democracy. They have not been able to handle the fact that another party may be acceptable to the people. The state police are also hand-in-glove with them. We do peaceful rallies and the police cracks down.
The BJP cadre is under attack in Kerala, West Bengal and, now, in Telangana. What is the reason for these attacks across states? The Left Front and the Congress have also blamed the BJP for violence in Tripura. Your comments?
You first need to ask the Left Front why this kind of violence has been happening in the first place in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Their (Left) brand of politics involves violence and that is exactly what the Trinamool is continuing in West Bengal. The TMC is destroying democracy and silencing all voices of dissent—whoever dares to protest is killed. This does not happen in the rest of India—so why does it happen here alone? Those are questions that need to be asked to the TMC, as well as the Left Front.
The home ministry has taken cognizance, but the state government has refuted claims of facing any law and order issue. How is the party handling it?
Look, we have been doing everything within the confines of democracy and the democratic process—the government here in the state cannot stomach any kind of opposition. So, they try and control any kind of andolan (protest) that takes place. Yes, the home ministry has taken note of this, but we are trying to convey to the people of West Bengal how ineffective the current state government is.
The BJP has been trying to blame Mamata Banerjee for the killings of party workers. We saw clashes between BJP cadres and the police near Lalbazar. Are you looking for a solution to avoid such confrontations?
The party and the state police are silencing voices of democracy in West Bengal. Our workers have been killed and, let alone being cooperative, the TMC is accusing us.
Will you be pushing for President’s rule?
No. We believe in doing everything as per a democratic process. We had met the governor to resolve the current problems in the state, but we do not want President’s rule.
What led to the party’s meteoric rise in the Lok Sabha polls—from just two seats in 2014 to 18 this time?
The way the party has been performing in the country over the last five years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been noticed by the people of the state and the result is seen in the massive mandate we have been given.
The same holds true for what has happened in West Bengal. We have been working tirelessly here as well. People want a change from the tyranny of the TMC, which was also instrumental in booth capturing and not letting the people vote during the last Panchayat elections. They have resorted to threatening people and arm-twisting the public in order to thwart any kind of opposition. We saw the same pattern this time also—their people tried to threaten the public and the result is for the TMC to see. Despite all their tactics, the people have chosen the BJP because they are tired of the TMC’s antics.
…And the BJP’s ground forces?
Of course. They worked relentlessly. They were instrumental in carrying forward PM Modi’s message to the grassroots. The TMC tried its level best to ensure that our workers are stalled. Recently they were attacked and some have been tragically killed as well. The TMC has been desperate and that’s why they have indulged in violence.
Our foot soldiers have gone from door to door, speaking to people and educating them about our central and state policies. The people also know who wants to work for them and who does not. They have trusted us. Everywhere we have seen huge support for the BJP and we are confident that this will translate into something very concrete in the upcoming assembly elections.
The TMC is likely to play the “Bengali" card in assembly polls. Do you think the BJP will be able to prevail over the traditional mindset, and keep the momentum going?
Bengalis are a thinking community. They won’t just get swayed by anyone or any party who comes along and taps into the “Bengali mindset". What card will the TMC play? The party has taken the Bengalis for granted. There are no jobs in the state, unemployment is at an all-time high. There is anarchy—more than 150 people have been killed in West Bengal in the last three years. The very “Bengali" that the TMC wants to play up, is being killed by them.
There is acute poverty and the state government has done nothing to alleviate it or address any of these issues. The people of the state are not foolish. They know exactly what has happened in the last eight years since the TMC took over.
There is a projection that the BJP will get 116 seats in 2021. Which areas are likely to vote in favour of the BJP?
The way we had performed during the parliamentary elections, we are likely to win big in areas of North Bengal, Jangalmahal, Nadia, Bardhaman and others. We are fairly confident of our chances in 2021.
How much weightage is likely to be given to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in West Bengal and the citizenship amendment bill?
These are very important issues and we are going to push for both. The NRC is soon going to be concluded in Assam, and both these issues have been widely spoken about in the state. The people are very open about it. It was something that we had discussed during all our campaigns for the Lok Sabha elections as well.
Many TMC counsellors and leaders have jumped ship to the BJP. Mukul Roy had quit TMC to join the BJP and it benefitted the party. Will this en-masse defection help the party strategize better?
This happens everywhere, and all the time. We stay open to the possibility of whoever wants to join our party. The main thing is–even TMC workers and leaders have noticed that the party has no future at all. The way the party is carrying on, it is a sinking ship. Even TMC leaders know that the BJP is actually working on the ground in West Bengal and think of it as the better party to go with.
What is the party’s agenda and blueprint for the assembly polls in 2021?
Have you seen the condition of Bengal and its people? We are very clear that we will pitch for greater democracy in the state—there is absolutely no democracy left in Bengal, thanks to the TMC. In addition to that, our agenda is very clear—we will work for better education, administration and healthcare facilities, and all other issues that concern the people.
BJP has several leaders in West Bengal, including you and Mukul Roy. Who is the chief ministerial face of the party?
See, that is not something we can decide on right now. Let the elections happen. Then, we will take a call on who will be the CM. It is premature to decide on that.