Double engine! How two RSS workers are helping BJP ace West Bengal Polls

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Updated: Mar 30, 2021 5:27 PM

Elections for the 294 seats of West Bengal will be held in eight phases starting March 27 and ending on April 29.

BJP Bengal RSS TMCShiv Prakash (L) and Arvind Menon (R). The two men have been burning mid-night oil to help the BJP in West Bengal polls.

West Bengal is witnessing a high-stake battle with the BJP trying to overthrow the incumbent Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government. One could recall the 2016 West Bengal polls when the BJP could only win three seats. However, three years later, it won 18 out of 42 parliamentary constituencies stunning everyone. The result not only boosted the morale of the saffron party but sent a message to the TMC indicating what is on the cards. When people delved deeper into the BJP’s 2016 victory, they found out that its mentor organisation Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh (RSS) had been burning mid-night oil in the state for the last few years to strengthen the base of the saffron party.

Fast forward to 2021 when the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to get a favourable outcome, seen in the back end are two RSS men who have been collecting bits and pieces of the state’s political secrets to prepare a recipe for BJP’s victory.

While many RSS workers are campaigning for the BJP in Bengal, two little-known men are working behind the scenes setting up the desired framework for the party in the state. These two are Shiv Prakash, an RSS pracharak and former ABVP leader Arvind Menon. Prakash was deputed to the party in 2014 after he had overseen a saffron sweep of Western Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections.

Given the importance of Bengal polls, Prakash, 53, was asked by party president JP Nadda to shift his headquarter from Delhi and focus on Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. However, the high-stakes battle for the eastern state has forced him to be permanently stationed in Bengal. Prakash accepts that he has spent more than 60 per cent of his time in West Bengal since joining the BJP. A resident of Uttar Pradesh, Prakash is now not only fluent in Bangla but has Bengal’s statistics on his fingertip.

Prakash had joined RSS as a pracharak in 1986. He is now in charge of the BJP’s organisational affairs in West Bengal. He is credited with building the BJP’s grassroots in the state.

According to an Indian Express report, the BJP has set up committees at most of the 78,000 original polling booths (number of polling booths have increased this time due to COVID-19) in the state under the leadership of Prakash since 2015. He claims to have inducted as many as 17,500 short-time booth workers split into over 12,000 “Shakti Kendras” (power centres), a unit devised by him. Prakash claimed that the BJP now has vistaraks in every assembly segments just like the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He said that people were initially reluctant to join the BJP but the party now have no dearth of workers.

Keeping a low-profile has helped Prakash carry his work without disturbance in Bengal’s violence-ridden politics and he claims to have travelled the entire state many times without security.

Another man, Arvind Menon is BJP’s national secretary and one of the two co-incharges in West Bengal. Menon is a Malayali Nair from Varanasi but he too speaks Bangla fluently. He came to Bengal as a part of the BJP Yuva Morcha, touring the state extensively. He is said to have played a key role in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections. He has been working to keep the BJP’s flock together in the state by bridging the gap between the party’s old and new guards.

Elections for the 294 seats of West Bengal will be held in eight phases starting March 27 and ending on April 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.

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