Following Bihar, the next stop for BJP is West Bengal, where the party faces an uphill task, fighting against the ruling Trinamool Congress led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2021.
The win in Bihar is a much-needed morale booster for the saffron party, whereas a defeat at the hands of the RJD-led no-longer-maha–gathbandhan could only make the climb steeper, for a party that lacks leadership in Bengal. There are other obstacles like factional feuds and a marginal traditional vote bank.
It is only after the party’s unprecedented success in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when it won 18 of the 42 parliamentary seats, that BJP set its target on ousting the Mamata Banerjee government. However, the party faces a daunting task in the state that has a big Muslim population. The Narendra Modi government’s moves on NRC (National Register of Citizens) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have struck an emotive chord against the Centre.
The state’s shared border with Bangladesh makes it an extra sensitive matter, as the CAA and the NRC directly impact bilateral relations with the neighbouring country.
However, the Bihar impact is sure to reflect in Bengal as the state is home to many Biharis. This working class of people has lived in the state for generations, many of whom form BJP’s core strength on the ground in Bengal.
Hence, a defeat in Bihar or rather a surge of anti-BJP forces in Patna could have jeopardised any prospect the saffron party banks on in Bengal. The Bengalis have had a long history of leftism, accentuated by 34 years of CPM-led Left Front rule. Incumbent Banerjee, who had famously said in 2007 as an opposition leader that she was “not anti-communist but only anti-CPM”, has in the recent years been the most aggressive anti-BJP face in the country. While the state government has been mired in corruption scandals like the Ponzi schemes of Saradha chit fund and Rose Valley, the BJP is unlikely to pursue those cases as many politicians tainted by the scams are now in its fold, led most prominently by Mukul Roy.
The BJP’s mission in Bengal becomes all the more onerous as the party lacks a leader’s face in the state.
The recent factional feuds in the Bengal BJP between the old guard, the RSS-backed party chief Dilip Ghosh and his camp and the new entrants from TMC and other parties, as well as highly motivated Hindutva factions, have only made things worse for the saffron brigade in the state.