To win West Bengal in the 2021 assembly elections, in which home minister Amit Shah wants the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to finish with more than 200 of 294 seats in the House, the party is putting together its biggest election machinery ever in the eastern state.

Top state office-bearers of the party with knowledge of the development said 294 BJP leaders will be arriving in Bengal from Delhi and other states to work with the local unit for polls. They would be part of a 45-member team to be set up for each constituency; existing district committees will assist these teams, the office-bearers said.

“The leaders from other states are scheduled to arrive from November 26 onwards. We have been told that there will be union ministers, central leaders from Delhi and leaders and ministers from states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Karnataka,” a senior BJP functionary said on condition of anonymity.

The BJP is seeking to unseat the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, where the party led by Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011 by ending the 34-year rule of the Left and extended its term in 2016..

Shah and BJP president J P Nadda will take turns in visiting Bengal every month and will be in the state for at least two days on each visit.

“The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) cannot even imagine how the BJP is going to contest the polls due in about five months. Shah told us during his recent visit to Kolkata that the machinery will be much bigger than what we had last year when we won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats,” the state BJP functionary cited above said.

A sizeable section of the functionaries being sent to the state from outside have been pracharaks (full-time missionaries) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP, state leaders said.

“They will work with hand-picked local leaders. The selection is being made by a central team headed by national general secretary (organization) B L Santhosh,” said a second state BJP leader. “There will be separate teams for each of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies as well,” he added.

“We will form teams at the micro level. There will be separate committees to monitor the party’s campaign and funding, oversee the organisational setup at polling booth level and keep track of electoral roll revision which started this week. A big emphasis will be on the social media campaign. That is why Amit Malviya, head of the national information and technology (IT) cell, has been given additional charge of West Bengal,” said a third state leader who attended a recent internal meeting.

Interestingly, most of the functionaries to be stationed in the constituencies will not check into hotels or commercial guest houses. “They will stay at the homes of local RSS pracharaks or BJP workers,” the third leader said.

BJP state leaders also revealed that the party has hired three professional agencies for gathering and analyzing data. They said some changes may be made in the existing state committee which comprises 12 vice-presidents and six general secretaries apart from state general secretary (organization) Amitava Chakravorty, 10 secretaries and two treasurers. Seven members of the state committee are women.

Having sensed that the BJP will be going all out to win the polls, the TMC is keeping a close watch on the movements of the BJP’s five central leaders who are currently evaluating organizational strengths and weaknesses in the districts of south Bengal, where the BJP did not fare so well in 2019 in comparison to its performance in the north.

Sunil Deodhar, Dushyant Gautam, Vinod Tawde, Harish Dwivedi and Vinod Sonkar are interviewing the presidents and secretaries of the district units for a comprehensive report to be submitted to Shah. State leaders are not allowed to attend the interviews that started on Wednesday. The five BJP leaders have been put in charge of different organizational zones.

“We have to keep a watch on these outsiders and find out if they are here to create trouble or indulge in horse trading. Our workers have been asked to be on the alert,” TMC Rajya Sabha member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said on Wednesday.

Since Wednesday, the TMC has been holding press conferences at the state headquarters every afternoon. Minsters and members of Parliament are highlighting various issues and comparing achievements of the state government and performance of BJP-ruled states in various sectors.

On Friday, minister Bratya Basu alleged that the BJP’s evaluation of Bengal is evident from the fact that none of the MPs from the state have been made cabinet ministers.

Kolkata-based political science professor and current affairs analyst Udayan Bandopadhyay said, “The BJP had set up a similar machinery in Uttar Pradesh to defeat Akhilesh Yadav and his allies. But the big difference is that the BJP had the experience of ruling UP. It has never ruled Bengal and yet break-up of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll results show that it was ahead of the TMC in more than 125 assembly segments. This became possible because voters who are not committed to any party voted for the BJP. These voters comprise the biggest chunk of the vote bank. Every party has a bank of committed voters. The BJP has to present before non-committed voters an alternative narrative, a plan to win their trust in 2021.”

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