The BJP’s West Bengal strategy since the 2014 Lok Sabha election would leave even its most ardent supporters and well wishers flummoxed. The strategy, if at all it can be called one, has been inconsistent and even contradictory at various levels.
After the BJP's spectacular performance riding on the back of the Modi wave in the Lok Sabha election, in terms of vote-share though not seats, the central leadership of the party systematically upped the ante, presumably with an eye to the Assembly election in 2016. But it lost its way somewhere down the road, frittering away the momentum it had gained.
To observers of politics in West Bengal, this almost appeared like throwing in the towel. The outcome was inevitable: The municipal elections and the Assembly election were handed over to the Trinamool Congress on a platter.
This was not just on the political front.
After turning the heat on the Saradha chit fund scam, the CBI investigation suddenly went cold. There were Chinese whispers about a ‘deal’ and a quid pro quo on support for the GST Bill. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s estranged confidant Mukul Roy, who was rumoured to be planning a revolt by either floating his own party or joining the BJP, timidly returned to the Trinamool fold without a whimper.
Calm prevailed for several months barring the occasional public sparring by the BJP and TMC, and posturing by both, until the demonetisation bomb exploded.
What exactly turned Mamata Banerjee so flagrantly ballistic is a matter of conjecture and debate. But those who know her would say that her mercurial acts are never without careful consideration. She has an instinct for picking up issues that resonate with her core constituency. Like Modi, despite her critics faulting her judgement and strategy, she generally comes out on top.
With the old generation of mass leaders gone, there is no one in the current national political firmament who is a better street-fighter than Mamata Banerjee. Kejriwal is a mere kindergarten toddler in comparison. She may not have a base outside West Bengal, but on her home turf if she decides to go for the jugular, there is no looking back.
Compared to Kejriwal, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee has a clean 'personal image' that can only be compared with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Therefore, the renewed CBI raids are unlikely to touch her and she can confidently take on threats, real or perceived. Unlike in the case of Saradha, in the Rose Valley scam she has another ace up her sleeves -- the alleged involvement of politicians from other parties, including the BJP, which she can invoke at will.
Having bitten the bullet a second time, the CBI has to ensure that it actually fires. Otherwise, if it turns out to be a dud and fizzles out, that would not only be a blow to its own reputation but also that of the Prime Minister, which will cost the BJP dear in 2019.
The answer in the long run has to be political. Mamata Banerjee understands that. With the Left having been reduced to a stump and the Congress now a spent force, it is only the BJP that can be a potential threat to Trinamool. But she has little cause to worry given the present State leadership of the BJP. The only leader with spunk is Rupa Ganguli.
For now, the Centre and this State seem to be on an irreconcilable collision course. The biggest loser of the fight will be, as always, the hapless people of West Bengal.
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