BJP must rebuild from scratch in Bengal

Sayantan GhoshUpdated: Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 08:36 AM IST
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West Bengal BJP state chief Sukanta Majumdar |

The dissent within the Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has been increasing exponentially. The situation has become so grave that Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar last Friday dissolved all the cells of the party’s Bengal unit which were constituted before he became the president. Several top Bengal BJP leaders openly held a press conference last week and slammed the party’s state leadership. Before the 2021 assembly election, the central leadership of the BJP seized all control but after the defeat, it is nowhere around to bear the onus of the loss.

This sudden distancing of the central leadership has broken the morale of the grassroots BJP worker. It is time for the central leadership of the BJP to work shoulder to shoulder with the state leadership to rebuild the party. The citizens of Bengal have given the BJP the role of the opposition but with such a broken organisation, it’s not possible to perform as a responsible opposition party.

This is the first time in the recent history of the BJP, a sitting Union minister of state, Shantanu Thakur, along with other BJP leaders held a press conference last week and attacked the General Secretary (organisation) of the Bengal BJP unit without taking his name. People who are aware of BJP's party structure understand that the post of General Secretary (organisation) is for an RSS appointee who works as the bridge between the Sangh and the party. Slamming a person who holds this position is nothing but a direct foray against the RSS.

Thakur has this authority because he is not only a political leader but also the chief of the Matua Mahasangh, the umbrella organisation of the Matuas (‘untouchables’ in Bengal’s caste system) which is considered as the key vote bank of the Bengal BJP. Neither the party’s state nor central leadership has taken any positive step to resolve the issues of these people. One of the key demands raised by Thakur and others was the lack of caste representation in the recently reshuffled state unit of the BJP. The state BJP leadership did not even bother to comment on the matter.

Another key demand of the Matuas was the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Before the Bengal assembly election, the central leadership of the BJP had promised that they would implement the CAA as soon as possible. However, after the defeat, there is complete silence over this demand. According to sources, Thakur and other BJP leaders from the community have repeatedly requested the central leadership to give them a timeline of the implementation but neither is that forthcoming. This is why the community has declared that they will take to the streets demanding the implementation of the Act.

The issues of the Bengal BJP are not restricted to the Matuas. The growing dissent is across the party. Before the 2021 elections, despite the unwillingness of the RSS the central leadership of the BJP decided to take in several leaders from the Trinamool Congress. Significantly, the party also gave assembly election tickets to most of these turncoats and most of them lost. Worse still, after the party’s defeat, they began to leave the BJP and rejoin the TMC, accompanied by many top BJP leaders, MLAs and MPs also jumping ship. From 77, the strength of the party in the Bengal assembly has come down to 70.This whole situation has thrown up a lot of questions on the leadership of the BJP. It is believed that the state unit of the BJP was not in favour of inducting the turncoats but it was the decision of the central leadership.

There is also an ongoing leadership crisis within the Bengal BJP. According to sources in the party, now there are three clear camps within the party unit, if not more. One faction is led former Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh (he is an MP and national vice president), another by the current chief Sukanta Majumdar and the third is led by Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari. It should be noted that several of the old guard and grassroots BJP leaders have directly slammed Adhikari and accused him of taking over the party. Adhikari was earlier in the TMC and close to Mamata Banerjee. After joining the BJP, he fought from the Nandigram seat and defeated Banerjee. This has made him a hero within the saffron party.

The BJP is generally respectful of senior most leaders but has taken an absolutely different path in Bengal. Former Bengal BJP chief and former Governor of Tripura, Tathagata Roy has been attacking the party’s state leadership and accusing them of taking money to distribute tickets before the 2021 election. However, the party leadership has remained silent on these allegations. Nor has the state leadership shown any interest in resolving the matter. If the leadership believes that Roy’s allegations are wrong, disciplinary action should have been taken against him but that also did not happen. And it is not just Roy, there are several of the BJP old guard in West Bengal who are unhappy with the decisions and the functioning of the current BJP unit. The leadership of the BJP is content to focus on the fact that earlier the party had just three seats and in this election, they got 77 seats. What seems to be forgotten is that the target of the BJP was to get over 200 seats in Bengal and to this end, it had made a massive investment in the state.

The BJP is not a regional political party but the biggest political establishment of India. It has the mandate of the people at the national level and in Bengal too, the people stood beside them. In the last election, the Left and the Congress Party did not receive a single seat but the BJP did. The Modi and Shah-led BJP should accept accountability for defeats too. If the BJP wins, then the credit goes to the duo but if the party loses, no one has the courage to accept responsibility. Sucha practice will force the BJP into just becoming another Congress Party, where no one takes the onus for anything. Unless the BJP focuses on rebuilding its Bengal unit now, it has no chance of winning the state in the future.

(The writer is an independent journalist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow, Delhi Assembly Research Centre. He tweets as @sayantan_gh. Views expressed are personal)

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