Red Bastion Turning Saffron
The last elections were one where a record number of political leaders defected from one party to another, but the fact remains that only those who had joined the BJP tasted electoral success. Among the big defectors who could grab a seat in the 16th Lok Sabha include Om Prakash Yadav, Sushil Kumar Singh, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Jagdambika Pal, Dharamvir Singh, Ajay Nishad, Santosh Kumar, Mehboob Ali Kaiser, Ashok Kumar Dohare, Vidyut Baran Mahato, and Heena Gavit.
In Uttar Pradesh itself, which is considered crucial for any political party’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections, as many as 19 defectors joined the BJP, while Mulayam Singh inducted 15 defectors into the Samajwadi Party. Seven defectors each joined the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party in UP. Ajit Singh also inducted three leaders into his Rashtriya Lok Dal ahead of the elections. Both Amar Singh and Jaya Prada lost, similarly, most of the defectors who joined SP, BSP or RLD had to bite the dust. In Bihar, ruling JD(U) fought on 38 of 40 parliamentary seats out of which had 13 defectors, of which only Santosh Kumar who defected from BJP could win a seat. The BJP had given tickets to nine defectors from other parties on the 30 seats it contested from Bihar, of which five registered a win.
In Haryana too, three leaders defected to BJP. Rao Indrajit Singh who got BJP ticket to contest for Gurgaon won the parliamentary seat for the party while Ramesh Chander also won the Sonipat seat. In Rajasthan, three leaders from other parties were inducted into the BJP. The controversial Barmer constituency was taken away from BJP rebel Jaswant Singh to be given to Congress defector Col Sona Ram Choudhary, who won the seat for BJP. In Bihar too, Ram Kripal Yadav defected from the RJD and defeated Lalu Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharati and won the Pataliputra seat for the BJP. The expelled JDU leader Sushil Kumar Singh also won the Aurangabad seat for BJP.
Post elections, the BJP is once again facing an influx of leaders from regional and national parties. In Odisha and West Bengal, there is a steady influx from workers and cadres of other parties. Even though the results of Odisha were poor, there has been a constant stream of people from all walks of life who are joining the party. In West Bengal there is practically a deluge. Nearly 50,000 political workers of the Trinamool, Congress and the CPM have switched their allegiance and joined the BJP. Especially in the Jangalmahal areas, there is a ground swell of disenchantment against the ruling TMC and waves of new entrants are joining the party. In the Border districts the rise of illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators is a serious cause of concern. This raw nerve was tickled by Modi during his campaign run up, and drew sharp reaction from Mamata, which exposed her soft side for minority appeasement. The state president of the BJP, Rahul Sinha, who is holding several meetings at Lodhashuli, Gopiballavpur, Nayagram and Mohanpur in Jangalmahal area claims that the workers from other parties are joining the BJP with the hope that it would be able to counter ruling Trinamool Congress’ reign of terror in the state since the last elections.
Some activists from the Jharkhand Party too have joined the BJP. Sensing an opportunity, the party high command had sent a team from Delhi led by the party MP Balbir Punj visited Ilambazar in Birbhum district and met the family members of Rahim Sheikh, a BJP minority leader who was allegedly murdered by Trinamool activists on June 7.
In urban Kolkata, suburbs like Kasba, Santoshpur, Garia and Salimpur constitute of a few lakh voters. Post Partition, the areas have been predominantly inhabited by middle income group Hindu Bengalis and had never witnessed any sakhas of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh till a decade ago. There are now sakhas operating in various localities. The rise of the RSS in an area predominantly controlled by the Communists over the last three decades (Naxals had a base here in the 1970s) has surprised many. Such a rise, naturally, raises many questions. One, whether the RSS’ rise is connected to the rise of the ruling party in Bengal? Secondly, will it help the BJP mobilise votes in the State?
Pradeep Singh, one of the early TMC members who was quite close to the party chief, Mamata Banerjee, left the party a few months ago to join the RSS and the BJP. Explaining his reasons for leaving the TMC, he said that he was “disturbed” when Muslims took out a protest rally after the hanging of Afzal Guru.
Historically, Hindu nationalist organisations had support in Bengal. The BJP got about 13 per cent of votes in the 1991 Lok Sabha election riding the Ramjanmbhoomi wave. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the party had secured just 6.15 per cent votes. This time on, cashing in on the pro-Narendra Modi sentiment, it has secured more than 17 per cent vote share, its all-time best. A backbencher in West Bengal politics, the BJP has signaled its arrival in a big way and is seeking to change the political equations in the state. Not only did it bag the two prestigious seats of Darjeeling and Asansol, it also emerged second in three other seats of Kolkata South, Kolkata North and Malda South. Political analysts feel that if the BJP maintains the momentum, the party will be able to change the four-decade-old political equations in the state. The next Assembly poll will be fought between Mamata and BJP, with the CPM playing just a minor role.