Decades of ground work by RSS helped BJP wrest 18 seats in Mamata's fortress, says poll strategist Sunil Deodhar

Miffed with the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, an angry Shyama Prasad Mukherjee of Kolkata, stormed out to form the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (aka Jan Sangh) in 1951 with the goal to espouse a strong Hindu cause.

However, the saffron ideology could not make inroads into the hearts and minds of the Bengali. What followed in time was Congress rule, 34 years of the Left and then the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress since 2011.

But without any doubt, one of the biggest and most profound takeaways of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 is the successful BJP foray into what had become Mamata’s borough. With 18 seats in the saffron kitty as against Trinamool’s 22, it is a clarion call that the saffron party has indeed come to its founder’s home, 68 years after it was formed.

Explaining the win, Sunil Deodhar, BJP’s election strategist in West Bengal, told Firstpost, “BJP did not have to do much as the hard groundwork has been going on for decades much before this election. The RSS and its affiliates like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and particularly, the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, have been rendering yeoman service in the most remote corners of the state."

 Decades of ground work by RSS helped BJP wrest 18 seats in Mamatas fortress, says poll strategist Sunil Deodhar

File image of Sunil Deodhar, BJP's poll strategist for West Bengal. Image courtesy: Sunil Deodhar

"These organisations stand for the cause of Hindutva, nationalism and to safeguard Hindus. The propagation of these ideals has automatically benefited the BJP without having to try too hard," he says.

The charges of minority appeasement policy against Mamata has been taken to the extremes and the reported illegal influx of Bangladeshis have only served to reinforce the Sangh narrative.

What makes it astounding is that Deodhar was in West Bengal for less than a month. "I reached West Bengal on 22 April. I also brought in about 40 Bengali-speaking RSS 'vistaraks' (unmarried full-time workers devoted to Sangh work) from Assam and another 40 from Tripura. About 200 vistaraks had already been working in West Bengal for about a year or so," he informs.

“My next step was to organise the work at the booth-level, look at the candidates, organise their campaigns, make festoons and publicity material, embark on social media campaigns and also meet intellectuals to understand what they had to say,” he adds.

Besides making a good use of the obvious anti-incumbency factor to the hilt, the BJP win has several facets to it. It is not just the BJP’s occupation of Trinamool’s backyard but also the sheer annihilation of the Left (where it failed to win even a single seat) to limiting the Congress to just two seats. BJP also managed a vote share of 40.3 percent to Trinamool’s 43.3 percent, raising an interesting possibility that the Left voters may have shifted to the BJP.

"After reaching Kolkata for the polls, I met many CPM leaders and cadres and also Trinamool partymen. Their anger and resentment against Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee was palpable. They told me whatever be it, please defeat her. It seemed they were also angry with the impersonal corporate style of party management replete with an insulting attitude," he adds.

Deodhar’s importance as a RSS swayamsewak and BJP national secretary besides being the party in-charge for Tripura and Andhra Pradesh, is far surpassed by his function as a political strategist to the saffron party much in the mould of party chief Amit Shah.

The ‘in-charge’ of PM Modi’s Varanasi campaign in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014, Deodhar has made it a habit of charting near impossible wins. Before the stellar performance in West Bengal, he was instrumental in staging an astonishing win in the state polls in the Leftist bastion of Tripura in February, 2018.

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Updated Date: May 24, 2019 21:57:14 IST