Looking to consolidate the gains made in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, the BJP's state unit is creating a "talent pool" to identify candidates from among its cadre for the crucial 2021 assembly polls. According to party sources, the exercise is aimed at grooming BJP cadre as strong ground-level leaders and is expected to be completed by year end or early 2020.
The saffron party won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the April-May parliamentary polls, only four less than the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress's (TMC) 22.
This was a significant improvement for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) compared to just two seats that it bagged in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"We have started the process of identifying four members of our party from each constituency for the talent pool. The chosen partymen will be groomed as future organisational leaders and probable candidates for the 2021 assembly polls," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told PTI.
The exercise is aimed at grooming party cadre as both organisational and mass leaders and making them the party's face in their respective areas, said a senior party leader who did not wish to be named.
The BJP will pick its candidate for an assembly seat from among the selected four members based on an internal assessment of their performances. The remaining three will be given organisational responsibilities, he said.
"The selection of the probable candidates will be based on their track record of the last few years and a thorough background check. Preference will obviously be given to old timers, but if a new entrant from another party is better he will also get a chance," the BJP leader said.
Party full-timers will be given priority during selection, he added.
Elaborating on the need for the creation of the "talent pool", another senior state BJP leader said though the party has made deep inroads into various parts of West Bengal, it still lags behind the ruling TMC in terms of strong ground-level leaders.
"During the Lok Sabha poll campaign we had felt the lack of good leaders and faces in a number of assembly constituencies who could put up a fight against the TMC. It was then that this idea of creating a pool of leaders first came up. The exercise has been taken up after thorough discussions with the central leadership," he said.
The chosen cadres will undergo internal party training and take part in workshops which will sensitise them about various issues both at national and state levels, he added.
The cadres will be asked to identify local issues, build public opinion, connect with the voters in their respective areas and create awareness about the ideology and policies of the BJP and its government at the Centre, a senior party leader in North 24 Parganas district said.
The Lok Sabha poll results indicated a tectonic shift in West Bengal politics with the BJP emerging as a key player.
According to the results, the saffron party bagged a staggering 40.5 per cent vote share and it was ahead in 126 assembly seats in the state. Based on this, the "talent pool" creation exercise has been divided into four categories, a BJP source said.
"We have divided the exercise in A, B, C and D categories as per our result in the Lok Sabha polls. The 126 seats where we have taken a lead will be under category 'A' and the 75 seats where we are in a close second position will be under category 'B'. The seats where we are in the second position with a distant margin will be in category 'C' and the seats where we are third will be in 'D' category. The target is to get the exercise done in 200 seats by December this year," the source said.
The BJP has also decided to revamp the party organisation to bring in better organisers and political workers into its fold.
Earlier, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya had said that a revamp in the party organisation in districts and areas where the party is weak is in the offing.
"In districts and local areas where leaders were earlier appointed just for the sake of appointment will be replaced with good and efficient persons. But old-timers who are good organisers and leaders will be retained in the new committees," Vijayvargiya, also the BJP's state party in-charge, had said.
The BJP has set a target of winning at least 250 of the total 294 assembly seats in the state, he had said.
New organisers and ground-level leaders will be appointed from the "talent pool" whenever the party organisation is revamped, the party sources said. Dismissing the BJP's plans, the TMC asserted that it will return to power in 2021.
"The BJP's dream of coming to power in the state will remain a dream. They can plan whatever they want to, but the fact is that the BJP in Bengal does not have any leader who can match Mamata Banerjee's popularity as a mass leader and administrator," TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.
"In 2021, Bengal will vote for Mamata Banerjee," he said.