Bengal BJP to launch toll-free number for public grievances, TMC calls it copycat
The BJP said the number which will be launched before municipal polls in more than a hundred civic bodies in April-May, being seen as ‘semi-final’ before the 2021 Assembly elections
West Bengal unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to launch a toll-free number for the people to register complaints against the Trinamool Congress government and give suggestions on issues in which they seek the party leadership’s intervention.
“Anyone who has suggestions to make or wants to draw the attention of the party on matters related to governance or wants to complain against any of our organiser can use this toll-free number to reach the party leadership,” said BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh.
While Ghosh said that the toll-free phone number is likely to be launched “very soon”, a member of BJP state executive, who did not want to be identified, said the plan is to launch the number within a month so that its benefits could be availed in the municipal elections to more than a hundred civic bodies across the state, scheduled to be held in April-May. The civic polls are being seen as a ‘semi-final’ before the 2021 Assembly elections.
“The toll-free number will help us gather information on issues of TMC’s corruption and give us a clear idea of what the people really want, from a civic administration in general and from our party,” said a state unit general secretary of BJP who did not want to be named.
The party will also create WhatsApp groups, for each civic body and each municipal ward, for the general workers to highlight issues affecting people and the party at the grassroots level. Booth-level workers would be made part of these WhatsApp groups, to be managed at the state and district level.
In the BJP’s move, the state’s ruling party Trinamool Congress (TMC) as also political analysts saw the influence of TMC’s public outreach campaign named ‘Didike Bolo’ (or Tell Didi, meaning elder sister, as Mamata Banerjee is better known), launched in July 2019. The toll-free number has been credited to a large extent by TMC and political analysts for TMC’s apparent success in improving the public image of the party and reining in errant leaders and workers.
The BJP fared dismally in the 2015 civic elections. Of the 2,094 seats where elections were held, BJP won only 81, while TMC bagged 1,428 seats, followed by 242 won by the Left and 187 by the Congress. This year, however, the civic polls are expected to be a bipolar contest between TMC and BJP in the majority of the state’s civic bodies.
The decision to launch the toll-free number was taken during a meeting of BJP’s state executive in Kolkata on Saturday where strategies for the municipal elections were discussed. The civic polls are being seen as a ‘semi-final’ before the 2021 Assembly elections.
“Didike Bolo has evidently helped TMC regain lost grounds and BJP is trying to copy the model seeing its positive impacts,” said political analyst Maidul Islam, a professor of political science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.
The TMC feels the BJP is simply tasking a leaf out of its book. “They are copying our Didike Bolo programme but their initiative will fail. Dilip Ghosh and his team are not even listening to the advice of a section of their own leaders opining against the tirade of abuses and inflammatory speeches unleashed by Ghosh. Who expects BJP to listen to the people?” said Tapas Roy, TMC leader and junior minister for parliamentary affairs
The BJP at present runs only one civic body – Darjeeling municipality in the hills. Though BJP took over seven municipalities in the immediate aftermath of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with councilors switching over from TMC to BJP en masse, the majority of the councilors in six of those civic bodies eventually returned to TMC.