Election strategist Prashant Kishor, the hate figure for rebels leaving Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, threw a dare today at the BJP after its record acquisition of Trinamool defectors during Amit Shah's weekend visit to the state.
Prashant Kishor, drafted by Mamata Banerjee for her campaign for the Bengal election four months away, said the BJP would "struggle to cross double digits" in the 294-member assembly and vowed to quit Twitter if it did better than he predicted.
"For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space!" he tweeted.
For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) December 21, 2020
PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space!
Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya retorted: "With the ongoing BJP tsunami in Bengal, after forming the government we will see the country lose a poll strategist."
Prashant Kishor's challenge follows the biggest single-day exodus from the Trinamool since its inception in 1998. Heavyweights Suvendu Adhikari and 34 other leaders, including five MLAs and an MP, crossed over to the BJP on Saturday, at Home Minister Amit Shah's rally in Midnapore. "Looking at this tsunami, at this rate, Didi, you watch out. You will be alone by the time the polls are here," Mr Shah said, with Trinamool rebels nodding on the stage.
Many of these leaders had been vocal about their resentment at Mr Kishor's outsized role in the Trinamool's campaign decisions, including choice of candidates.
"The very people on the backs of whom the party was created are now being sidelined, humiliated and outcast. In their stead, the individuals have now hired external assistance, people with no knowledge of ground realities and no knowledge of the sacrifice it actually takes to work for a shared goal as ambitious as creating the West Bengal of our dreams," Suvendu Adhikari wrote in an open letter shortly before his switch at Amit Shah's rally.
Without taking names, Mr Adhikari said the Trinamool was now filled with "individuals who are not bothered about anyone but themselves, individuals who will take monetary compensation for their services and disappear as soon as the elections conclude".
Another rebel MLA, Shilbhadra Dutta, had openly attacked the growing influence of IPAC, Mr Kishor's outfit, in running the Trinamool, and had refused to meet IPAC employees who visited him at his home.
On Friday, amid back-to-back resignations, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met with her closest advisers, including Mr Kishor and her nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee - another cause for disenchantment among rebels -- and took a hard line against defectors.
Mr Kishor, whose past credits include the BJP's 2014 campaign and Nitish Kumar's 2015 win in Bihar, is seen to face his toughest challenge yet in Bengal.
The BJP had only managed six of Bengal's 294 seats in the 2016 election, in which Mamata Banerjee won a second straight term.
This time, the BJP is vastly encouraged by its national election tally of 18 of Bengal's 42 seats, and believes a weakened Trinamool, having lost many of its vote-getters, will be easier to beat.