BJP‘s former West Bengal president and former Tripura-Meghalaya governor Tathagata Ray has blasted the party’s defeat in the state polls on the High Command’s neglect of the ‘original local party workers’.

This is the first open fusilade against the Modi-Shah coterie in BJP in recent years.

“Those who built the BJP here in the 1980s have been completely ignored and rubbished in this year’s campaign. Only Rahul Sinha and Samik Bhattacharya have been taken as consolation prizes,” said Tathagata Ray. “But they had no influence on policy.”

He told Northeast Now that the “entire campaign” was run by a Hindi-speaking triumvirate of Kailash Vijayvargia, Arvind Menon and Shiv Prakash.

“A national party like BJP is expected to send minders but they cannot achieve much if they ignore those who built the party in Bengal from a scratch,” said Ray, whose strategising as the state’s governor was a key factor in the BJP victory in Tripura.

Ray is a batch topper and a leading technocrat, a former GM of Calcutta MetroRail, a law graduate and an arbitration professional. He is also the biographer of the great Bengali Hindutva icon Shyamaprasad Mukherjee and was seen at one time as someone with credentials for the top job.

Also read: Mamata Banerjee sworn-in as West Bengal CM for third time

He lashed out at the party for giving nominations to ‘a whole brigade of glam girls and small time heroes’ from Bengal’s tinsel town, some of whom, he alleged, had even clicked selfies on a river cruise with Trinamool’s playboy politician Madan Mitra.

“This tinsel gang was incredibly stupid, they had no idea of politics and it was an anathema they got BJP tickets that also carries a lot if campaign money with it,” Ray told Northeast Now. “Kailash Vijayvargia and state president Dilip Ghosh owes an explanation to these worthless people.”

Other analysts who have covered Bengal agreed with Ray.

Also read: West Bengal post-poll violence: Nearly 400 BJP workers and family crossed over to Assam, claims Himanta Biswa Sarma

“BJP should have projected a strong credible Bengali leader. This high command culture does not work in Bengal, it did not for the Congress and it won’t for the BJP, surely not in a state poll,” said Sukhoranjan Dasgupta, author of many books on West Bengal politics.

He blamed Trinamool cadres for several acts of violence after the polls but lambasted the BJP for needlessly ‘communalising’ it.

“We are witnessing political violence and Mamata must be pushed to restore law and order.

“But BJP should stop giving it a communal twist. If they try whip up a riot here like Muzzafarnagar, they will further alienate Bengalis,” Dasgupta said.

He said old videos were now being circulated to create  confusion.

“These are clearly old videos shot during anti-CAA agitations showing violence by a particular community and now they are been passed off as attacks on BJP workers.

“Nobody is wearing masks in these videos, they are obviously pre-Covid,” Dasgupta said. “Use Crowd Tangle software and the lies tumble out of cupboard.”

Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s allegation that hundreds of BJP workers were fleeing into Assam from Bengal was also seen by Dasgupta as ‘part of a hype campaign to justify central intervention’.

“But if Mamata cannot control her flock, she is only giving the saffrons a chance to swing back after a convincing defeat,” he said.

Though Ray’s no-holds-barred attack was a public one, the Modi-Shah coterie is under fire from the RSS as well.

The Sangh wants the BJP leadership to do a ‘thorough introspection’ over the landslide victory secured by Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and especially focus on the merit of inducting many Trinamool deserters.

A quick review by RSS leaders in West Bengal and its top leadership revealed that the induction of Trinamool deserters has not worked.

With the exception of giant killer Suvendu Adhikari, the TMC deserters taken by BJP has backfired,  justifying TMC strategist Prashant Kishore’s repeated assertion that they joined BJP when faced with denial of TMC ticket in view of doubts over their winnability.

Suvendu justified the ‘Adhikari factor’ by his slender victory over Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram, but the TMC won 33 of the 47 seats in the Midnapore area because the battle Royale sucked in the Adhikari clan and left yawning gaps elsewhere in the region.

The RSS leadership feels the largescale induction of Trinamool deserters and nominating them as BJP candidates created rifts between the RSS-trained BJP leaders and the ‘new BJP’ inductees from Trinamool.

“There was an inevitable clash of political culture between two distinct outlooks. That did not help the party (BJP) ultimately,” said a senior RSS leader, but on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.

He said the BJP, by inducting Trinamool defectors, failed to exploit the local level public anger against the ruling party because the very cause of anger was inducted by BJP.

Kolkata’s Salt Lake-New Town leader Sabyasachi Dutta is a classic example.

Accused of running syndicates forcing real estate barons to purchase inferior quality building materials at inflated prices in the New Town region, Dutta suffered a humiliating defeat unbecoming of his stature as the former Salt Lake-New Town municipal boss.

“If you induct Sabyasachi  Dutta and then attack syndicate culture, you risk falling between two stools. Modi,  Amit Shah, Nadda all did that but the stink did not stick for obvious reasons,” said the senior RSS leader privy to the ‘chintan’ session immediately after the polls.

The RSS leadership also identify two other factors for the BJP defeat.

One, despite the success in making Hindutva and Illegal migration a real poll issue, the BJP failed to break “the faith reposed in communal amity by the Bengali bhadralok”.

“The BJP leaders got carried away by the apparent response generated by allegations of TMC’s minority appeasement.  But Bengali Hindus resent the high-handedness of Urdu-speaking Muslims in and around Calcutta and that most big Muslim leaders of TMC come from this community. But their bonding with Bengali Muslims remain very strong and they only partially responded to the BJP rhetoric,” the RSS leader said.

The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 undid the communal divide of Partition and  Bengalis on both sides of the border realised they gain from communal harmony and social peace. The BJP’s effort to disturb that social fabric had an unsettling effect on the Bengali psyche.

The NRC exercise in Assam not only created a scare among Bengali Muslims but also among East Bengali Hindus, who suffered more.

“Mamata successfully projected that as an anti-Bengali and not just an anti-Muslim exercise.”

Second, the absence of a tall Bengali leader in BJP against a formidable Mamata Banerjee cost the saffron brigade, said the RSS leader.

“Bengali have hated the High Command culture from the days of C R Das and Subhas Bose. Mamata is a product of that anti-Delhi angst and one needed to pitch a big local leader rather than stick to the old formula of picking one from the crowd after fighting the polls with Modi and Shah as face,” he said.

One of the future tasks for the Hindutva Brigade is to find a big Bengali leader here in West Bengal, preferably a woman because the two Ms vote (Mohila and Muslim) seems to have upset the saffron applecart.

“The BJP paid a price for underestimating Mamata,” says BJP Lok Sabha candidate Chandra Bose, a scion of the Netaji family.

“Social engineering works only to an extent. You cannot change societal values overnight however powerful and well funded your campaign,” says IPAC analyst Sayantika Bhowal. “BJP should fit into Bengal rather than try making it an UP or Gujarat.”

“Don’t be angry with Bengal for what has happened. Try to understand us,” was her advice to the saffron brigade.

IPAC was Trinamool’s campaign manager and its chief Prashant Kishore has been proved dead correct over his repeated assertion that BJP won’t cross double-digit.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. He can be reached at: sbhaum@gmail.com