By Express News Service
KOLKATA: The foundation of the BJP’s Bengal unit seems to have been shaken up by large-scale migration of foot soldiers to the ruling Trinamool Congress following the party’s poor show in the recent Assembly elections. The party had a presence in 50,000 booths out of nearly 79,000 before the high-decibel Assembly elections but now it has been reduced to around 40,000 after the projection of bagging victory in 200-plus seats out of 294 received a jolt.
Sources in the saffron camp said 20 to 25 per cent of the present booth workers have become defunct and stopped attending meetings for the past two months and the leadership fears they are about to join the TMC. The higher rung of the BJP also received a setback after four of its elected MLAs defected to the TMC reducing the party’s legislative count to 71.
The internal grassroot-level assessment of the BJP came to light after the party’s national leader Shiv Prakash, during a three-day meet with the Bengal functionaries last month, sought a report about the saffron camp’s present ground-level strength in the state.
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“Other than defection of the four elected legislators, including former national vice-president Mukul Roy, a large section of our party workers snapped all communication with us. The report submitted by the mandal committees has revealed 20 to 25 per cent of our booth workers have become defunct and their political allegiance is now leaning towards the ruling TMC,” said a senior BJP leader.
After making deep inroads in Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections taking the tally to 18 from two in the lower house of Parliament, the BJP included more than 85 lakh members in its lower rung.
“We received a massive response during a membership collection drive in 2019. The count of new members was calculated on the basis of the missed calls received by a particular number that was floated as part of the drive. Unlike other political parties, we don’t have any mechanism to know how many of our members are still with us on record. The real picture emerged after Shiv Prakash’s instruction to assess the party’s ground-level strength. There was massive defection from the TMC to the BJP ahead of the recent Assembly polls and now it is reverse migration,” said the leader.
In south Bengal districts, TMC turncoats who joined the saffron camp were seen queuing up in front of the local offices of the ruling party seeking apology. “In some of the places, they even staged a hunger strike and pleaded to allow them to return to the fold of the ruling party. We failed to restrict this outflow and as a result, our ground-level strength, which is crucial to participate in elections, has been shaken up,” said another BJP leader.