In a significant move ahead of the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, the BJP on Friday named Amit Malviya, national head of the party’s IT cell, as a co-mender for West Bengal.
BJP president J.P. Nadda’s new appointments were announced on Friday night. BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has been re-appointed as the Bengal in-charge and national secretary Arvind Menon has been re-appointed as his deputy. Malviya will join Menon as the state’s co in-charge.
The move took place a week after the home minister and former BJP president Amit Shah, who is mostly credited for building the BJP’s organisation in Bengal between 2014 and 2019, paid a two-day visit to the state.
Political observers saw in this move the BJP’s thrust on the battle on social media.
In West Bengal, the social media has turned into a battleground between the saffron camp and the state’s ruling party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), with scores of BJP supporters and IT cell members in different districts landing in jail on charges of sharing misinformation or making provocative remarks on social media.
“Malviya is well-aware of Bengal’s major issues. Over the past few years, he has been in constant touch with Bengal’s IT cell leaders and members in devising and implementing the social media strategies and contents,” said a BJP state unit leader who did not want to be named.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when the BJP gave the TMC a massive jolt by increasing its Bengal tally from 2 to 18, while the TMC’s tally came down from 34 to 22, the party’s IT cell played a very important role in reaching the public in areas where the party had a negligible physical presence on the ground.
“Malviya’s appointment reveals how the party is depending heavily on the campaign to strengthen the anti-incumbency against the state government and create a Modi-wave on social media ahead of the Assembly elections,” said a BJP Lok Sabha MP who did not want to be identified.
The BJP has not yet named any chief ministerial candidate and is likely to go without one, seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Thousands of people had been included in hundreds of WhatsApp groups, helping the party reach many such corners where the BJP had no formal committee at the booth level.
While the BJP held overwhelming dominance on social media – above all other parties – the scene has started changing with June 2019, when the TMC appointed poll strategist Prashant Kishor for scripting a revival route for the party.
Since then, Kishor’s organisation has taken over the TMC’s social media outreach programme and, over the past few months, the TMC’s social media presence has increased manifolds.
Apart from Vijayvargiya and Menon, the party’s national joint general secretary (organisation), Shiv Prakash, also looks after the BJP’s organisational issues in the state.
A senior Bengal minister, who did not want to comment on the record, said the move reveals the BJP’s insecurities about its own organisational weakness. “They are trying to bridge the gaps of organisational weakness with intense propaganda,” the minister said.
Political analysts Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, said that the appointment shows the BJP’s seriousness about the Bengal elections.
“It will add to Bengal’s organisational strength. Besides, due to the pandemic situation, social media is going to play a greater role in this poll than in any other election before and social media is going to be a prime tool for reaching out to the people. The party seems to have foreseen this,” Chakraborty said.