The source cited the examples of Narendra Modi’s campaigns in the run-up to the 2007 and the 2012 Gujarat elections, which he led as chief minister. “In both cases, the last phases were marked by vitriol but the main reason for Modi’s victories was he could sell his ideas and a good record of governance.”
Adducing a comparable argument for West Bengal, the source said: “The BJP
has done Mamata Banerjee’s (the chief minister) critique up to a point. Her law and order management or the lack of it, her partiality towards Muslims, and so on. But where are the attacks on health and education? A well-rounded poll campaign must take into account these sectors.”
Mukul Roy, a former political aide of Banerjee and now BJP
mover-and-shaker, articulated a slightly different view. “The BJP
is a national party, so naturally national issues will be punched together with local ones. We have to think of what alternative model we will offer if we come to power.” Ghosh, the Medinipur MP who is regarded as an inflexible ideologue, indicated he could be pragmatic when it came to fighting a poll. He said: “The BJP rests on an ideology that inspires and motivates our workers. But we also need different strategies, one for winning an election and the other for governance.”
However, a West Bengal BJP watcher emphasised that in advocating Hindutva and nationalism, the party's approach would have to be nuanced. “The Shaheen Bagh model of bullets and biryani won’t work. The RSS looked at a template that would play to Bengali pride and harp on the state’s development. Mamata’s slogan to defeat the Left Front was Bengal awake and arise. She promised to check the flight of capital from Bengal to far-flung states and usher in a renaissance. The RSS wants the BJP to pitch this line because it feels Mamata hasn’t delivered on her promises.
But another school of thought roots for the eye-for-an-eye attitude. Bengal is politically violent, the Trinamool Congress’ goons have attacked and killed BJP cadre. So many in the local BJP unit believe Gandhigiri is not the answer. The language and reprisals will have to be "equally aggressive,” they said.
The problem is the BJP’s “bhadralok (the urban elite)”, small as the following is but nonetheless persuasive, squirmed at the brutish brand of politics.
In the 2019 elections, the BJP won its 18 (of 42) parliamentary seats in the rural and quasi rural belt, but could not penetrate the city swath. A state leader said: “We have not been able to communicate with the thinking Bengali Hindu.
The BJP has the image of a Hindi bhashi (speaking) party. Some leaders speak Bangla with a Hindi accent as though they are probashi (expats). Bengalis are sensitive about these things.”
Chandra Kumar Bose, the grandnephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, said: “The BJP should talk of governance and corruption instead of Ram temple and the abrogation of Article 370.” Bose, who in 2019 lost the South Calcutta seat to the Trinamool Congress by a big margin, pushed for a CAA “without the religious tag”. “If you’re following Mahatma Gandhi, remember he said all persecuted persons from the neighbouring country (then East and West Pakistan) should be considered for citizenship. ”
As for projecting a CM candidate, opinions were just as partite. “When you’re taking on a powerful person like Mamata, it will help to have a prominent face like Uma Bharti, who was pitted against Digvijay Singh (in Madhya Pradesh in 2003), or Vasundhara Raje, who took on Ashok Gehlot (in Rajasthan). It’s a question of who’s the best,” he said.
Ghosh rejected the idea, saying: “It’s a national policy that wherever we are fighting to win, there will be no CM nominee.”