West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh is up and about early, creating a buzz over cups of steaming hot tea at the roadside sheds with his public meeting campaign ‘Chai pe Charcha (Discussion over tea)’ as Kolkata wakes up with misty winter mornings.
Wearing a tracksuit, muffler, and sneakers, Ghosh’s supporters follow him. They carry yoga mats along, in case the BJP leader determines to do some exercise. Ghosh’s selected areas for ‘Chai pe Charcha’ these days are Kolkata’s metropolitan localities. He interacts with around 50 people every morning. The conversations range from health, wellness, Ayurveda, bovine love to law and order. With assembly elections just months away, 56-year-old Ghosh has a busy schedule. He is among the BJP leaders assigned with charting the party’s campaign against the challenging two-term Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress (TMC). Ghosh also sees himself as a potential chief ministerial countenance.
Ghosh had started his morning-walk crusade as early as July 2019 following the BJP’s outstanding performance in the Lok Sabha elections, where the party succeeded18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. The TMC got only four seats additionally. Ghosh would wake up early and take rounds of his own locality in Rajarhat, Salt Lake, meeting people on the path. Usually, there would be troubles by TMC activists but Ghosh would move on with the duty of spreading the BJP’s message.
Gradually, his morning programs started acquiring traction, attracting even the Hindi-speaking majority of the population. Ghosh’sstyle of generating public interest was detected by the BJP central administration as well. Kolkata people who had associated Ghosh with bold manliness and saw him as a mascot of hardcore Hindutva, vermilion tika, and all on the forehead, was starting to see an illustration makeover the BJP leader, familiar with sports, even frequenting the golf course, striving for a perfect Tee.
The public perception that Ghosh represented toughness in the party was in for some transition as he often appeared in the public environment in stylish clothes and sunshades. By the start of September 2019, he also began the ‘Dada ke Bolo (Tell Dada)’ campaign, as a counter to Mamata’s ‘Didi ke Bolo’, to provide people a venue to circulate their resentments over the TMC government. The crowds around him started increasing. “Ghosh’s method of connecting with the masses in the early morning hours appears to have paid off. The BJP state president has been successful in creating an impression,” says former Presidency University principal Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay. Be it for fueling controversies or reaching into arguments with political opponents, Ghosh’s morning exercises drew media attention.
A few TMC leaders tried imitating Ghosh’s campaign in their separate areas, did not succeed much. Food minister Jyotipriya Mallick, who ensues to be Ghosh’s neighbor, slipped into jogging shoes and attempted to engage morning walkers but could yield limited interest beyond the normal bluster of a handful of his supporters. Ghosh was snappy to challenge him. “We secured two seats in North 24 Parganas in the 2019 Lok Sabha election; we will wrest the rest as well,” he last month told Mallick, who belongs to North 24 Parganas.
By the way, Ghosh has also come face to face with a new ‘team’ of morning walkers with 10-odd men sporting white T-shirts with the slogan ‘Beche De (Sell it off)’ and accompanying pictures of railways, telecom infrastructure, and aircraft. The jibe was clearly on the BJP’s disinvestment strategy, against which the TMC has been raising a question. The group also tried tightening some yoga stabs to startle Ghosh, but he was not to be discouraged. He says folks who needed Didi’s push at the drop of a hat finally required Dada’s morning warm-up conditioning to get instigated.