The BJP has turned up the volume of its rhetoric against the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal after Suvendu Adhikari joined the saffron fold last week. Adhikari, a key aide of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and a former minister, is the senior-most member of the TMC to switch to the BJP after Mukul Roy in November 2017.
Despite the perceived unease in the TMC, poll strategist Prashant Kishor remains dismissive about the BJP’s prospects in West Bengal in the Assembly elections due next year. Banerjee had hired Kishor in 2019 to handle the TMC’s campaign operations.
Kishor tweeted on Monday morning the BJP would “struggle to cross double digits in West Bengal”. Kishor wrote, “For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space!”
A host of BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, have declared the party would win more than 200 seats in the coming West Bengal Assembly polls. West Bengal has 294 Assembly seats.
The BJP was a marginal player in West Bengal until after the 2016 Assembly polls. The BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the 2019 polls.
Kishor had planned outreach campaigns for the Trinamool Congress and attempted to bolster the image of Mamata Banerjee. However, several leaders in the TMC had expressed dissatisfaction with the influence of Prashant Kishor.
In a letter issued to TMC workers before he joined the BJP, Suvendu Adhikari alluded to Prashant Kishor without naming him directly. “The very people on the backs of whom the Party [TMC] was created are now being sidelined, humiliated, and outcast. In their stead, the individuals have now hired external assistance, people with no knowledge of ground realities, and no knowledge of the sacrifice it actually takes to work for a shared goal as ambitious as creating the West Bengal of our dreams,” Adhikari wrote.
Kishor had been involved in reaching out to the rebel MLAs, including Adhikari.
Kishor had first made a name for himself as a poll strategist for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his maiden Lok Sabha election in 2014, before going on to assist the likes of Amarinder Singh in Punjab (2017) and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi (2020).
Kishor had joined the JD(U) of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 2018, but was expelled from the party in 2020 after frequently criticising Nitish.