From Bengal, a lesson in political mobilisation
On Friday, Mukul Roy — a formidable leader from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) who shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and played a key role in the party’s success in the 2019 elections in the state — returned home to his original party. Mr Roy had not been very active in the assembly elections, and there were murmurs about his discontent as other leaders, including his former party colleague Suvendu Adhikari, got more prominence. There were also whispers about a behind-the-scenes understanding with TMC even before the poll results. But irrespective of when Mr Roy began entertaining ideas of returning to the TMC, his exit is a lesson to all political parties which attempt a fast track route to political power.
Political mobilisation is hard. And it is particularly hard for political forces which may not have a strong base in a particular geography. In its expansion spree post-2014, one of the ways in which the BJP has sought to offset this disadvantage is by recruiting leaders from entrenched political forces in that geography. This has succeeded in places such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur; the party has quickly risen to power in other states such as Tripura. But in larger complex states, importing outsiders, either through persuasion or threats, comes with its own pitfalls. It adds to the challenge of accommodating these leaders and workers, at the cost of alienating others who may have been loyalists of the party for longer. This tension played out for the BJP in Bengal, where the old and new and very new collided, with an adverse impact on the party’s electoral fortunes.
The fact is that for political strength to be sustainable, it has to be organic and bottom-up. Otherwise, when the going is not good, those who may not be committed begin looking for alternatives. In its rush to win power across states, the BJP should heed the lesson from Bengal.