New Delhi: Over a month after its poll loss in West Bengal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to see bickering within the state unit, amid infighting and the looming risk of ‘ghar wapsi’ of the cadre to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
In the party’s first formal organisational meeting since the results were declared, the state leadership came under attack Tuesday from BJP MP Arjun Singh for the below-expectation show.
The senior party leader, who moved to the BJP from the TMC in 2019, called for introspection and a review of the defeat even as the meet was called to make an action plan to hold a statewide protest against the Mamata Banerjee government over the post-poll violence that claimed many lives.
According to sources in the party, Singh cited lack of committed and aggressive BJP workers on the ground — “unlike the TMC” — besides “sabotage”, lack of credible faces and organisational weakness as causes for the defeat.
BJP Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh, who chaired the meeting, said the party will soon hold a review meeting to discuss the issue.
Infighting within BJP continues
At the BJP’s state core committee meeting in Kolkata to take stock of political violence in Bengal and prepare an action plan, the issue of the party’s defeat came up when the Barrackpore MP asked for a review of the reasons behind the loss first.
He is said to have commented that the party can aggressively fight TMC goons only when it knows what led to the loss, “because we lack committed and aggressive party workers at ground level and this organisational weakness has caused defeat in several districts”.
Speaking to ThePrint, a party functionary said on condition of anonymity: “The meeting was called to brainstorm an action plan for the agitation against TMC’s violence in which over 40 people have lost their lives after the election result. But once Arjun Singh raised the issue of review and finding shortcomings, others also supported his demand.”
He added: “Although the state president listened to everyone’s views, he told party members that the BJP is taking an elaborate review in every district and a state-level review meeting will be held once all the reports from districts arrive.”
On the directions of the BJP high command, the state unit is holding review meetings in every district. In these meetings, state president Dilip Ghosh has come under attack for giving TMC turncoats prominence in the election in ticket distribution and poll management.
“In many district review meetings, it has emerged that there was political sabotage to defeat turncoats. The district presidents and other office-bearers already decided to not work for particular candidates to teach them a lesson,” said a senior BJP leader who attended the meeting.
“Once the process is completed in every district, the whole picture will emerge,” he said.
Several party members have complained about mismanagement in the election campaign. The BJP is trying to show a united face after post-poll violence and defeat to keep Mamata Banerjee at tenterhooks, in view of the upcoming municipal corporation polls and the need to keep the organisation in active mode keeping in mind the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, said the sources.
Suspense on Rajib Banerjee and Mukul Roy
Mukul Roy and Rajib Banerjee, two turncoats who joined the BJP ahead of the elections, were not present in the meeting Tuesday.
While Roy is attending to his ailing wife who is in hospital, Banerjee continues to drop hints that he could desert the BJP at any moment.
On Tuesday, the prized catch for the BJP attacked his own party over its continuous threats to impose Article 356 (President’s Rule) on Bengal. He said if at “every stage the party tries to scare people by pointing at Delhi and the ghost of Article 356, the people of West Bengal will not take it well”.
According to sources, Banerjee is trying to return to TMC but the party is making efforts to ensure that Roy doesn’t desert. “He is a big asset. That was the reason the prime minister called him to enquire about the health of his wife,” said a source.
However, Roy’s son Shubhranshu, who lost the election this time, is signalling that he is in touch with the TMC as he feels the BJP cadre didn’t work for his victory, added the source.
A second senior BJP leader said the biggest challenge to the party is to keep the morale of the cadre high and prevent them from returning to the TMC, adding that the ruling party has renewed efforts for the ‘ghar wapsi’ of its men who had defected to the BJP before the elections.
“TMC is organising a ghar wapsi programme in every district. Yesterday, 150 BJP workers in Bardhaman district joined TMC, apologising that they deserted Mamata in haste. Such a threat is looming in every district. That is the reason Bengal is topmost priority for the BJP high command,” said the leader.
“In 2019, Bengal sent 18 BJP MPs to the Lok Sabha. In 2024, the party can’t afford to slip from this count,” he added.
Sources said the party had called Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, who held deliberations with Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda in the last two days on the roadmap for the organisation in these new circumstances.
The high command has also called Arjun Singh and Soumitra Khan, MPs who came to the BJP from the TMC before the 2019 general elections, to Delhi to seek feedback from them for future organisational agitation against the TMC.
Statewide protest and complaint to President
On the issue of post-poll violence, the BJP has decided to knock the doors of President Ram Nath Kovind. Party MPs will meet the President in the next few days as the TMC government is paying no attention to BJP’s complaint, the party has announced.
During the meeting, it was also decided that the party will hold protests at every police station once the Mamata Banerjee government lifts lockdown even as some members called for immediate action.
Dilip Ghosh is said to have called for “agitation from booth level to national level to make people aware of this anarchy”. “We have to stand with our karyakarta in this difficult situation,” a source quoted him as having said.
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