Shah and PM Narendra Modi are likely to attend rallies in Bengal in December and January but they are no firm plans yet, a BJP leader said.
Last year, Shah had made his Bengal debut at an Utthan Divas rally. It was a show of strength for BJP, which had raked in 17% votes in the Lok Sabha polls — its highest-ever tally in Bengal. It was at this rally that BJP national leaders gave the slogan: “Bhag Mamata bhag.”
This September, BJP leaders had announced Shah’s November rally as its calendar highlight. That was before the Bihar deflation.
A BJP leader on Monday tried to delink Shah’s no-show at the rally from the Bihar debacle. “Instead of bringing people from across the state for one big rally, we have decided to hold rallies in the districts to boost our organization at the local level,” he said.
State BJP leaders brushed aside the theory. A key party functionary was blunt, saying, “Even if Shah has come for the November rally, it wouldn’t have helped us. With his credibility as a master strategist dented after Bihar poll, he would hurt rather than help BJP in Bengal.”
The “Bahari” narrative of the opposition in Bihar polls was, unexpectedly, echoed within the Bengal BJP. On Monday, several committees for agitation, booth management and publicity were announced for the 2016 assembly polls, setting off another wave of discontent.
“Our party is run by remote control from Delhi. Our national leaders don’t even discuss with key state veterans about the problems we face or what we need,” grumbled a leader. BJP’s lone MLA from Bengal, Shamik Bhattacharya, was not even called for the last strategy meeting in Delhi for the Bengal polls.
After the Bihar battering, questions are already being asked about the efficacy and credibility of the Modi-Shah jodi. “A political party cannot be run like a corporate house. Aggression and unipolar leadership don’t help. Bengal has its unique set of issues and problems and our strategy must be tailored accordingly. But our leaders believe in one-size-fits-all strategy that led to Bihar debacle,” said a BJP veteran.