Retaining heavyweights in party is biggest challenge for Bengal BJP

 Kolkata: Keeping heavyweight leaders including MPs and MLAs in the party is the foremost challenge for the West Bengal unit of the BJP now.

The recent return of BJP Lok Sabha member from Barrackpore constituency in North 24 Parganas district, Arjun Singh to the Trinamool Congress, seems to have unnerved the party’s state unit. In fact, Arjun Sigh was the second heavyweight leader from the Trinamool Congress, after Mukul Roy, who had joined the BJP in 2019 after he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket by the Trinamool. The trend of Trinamool Congress leaders going to the BJP that started with Roy and Singh in 2019 increased before the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections, when Trinamool leaders, MLAs and ministers like Suvendu Adhikari, Rajib Banerjee and Sabyasachi Dutta, among others joined the saffron camp.

However, after the landslide victory of the Trinamool Congress in the 2021 assembly elections, the reverse swing started. It began with Mukul Roy soon after the results were announced last year, followed by Rajib Banerjee and Sabyasachi Dutta and finally Arjun Singh being the latest to come back to the state’s ruling party on May 22, 2022.

Currently, Suvendu Adhikari, the Leader of Opposition in the assembly, is the only turncoat who is still with the BJP. Besides the turncoats, old-timers in the BJP like two-time MP and singer-turned- politician, Babul Supriyo and former BJP state vice president, Jaiprakash Majumdar too have joined the ruling party.

In such a situation the BJP is apprehending cross-voting by a section of the sitting BJP legislators in the upcoming Presidential polls. The BJP’s national president, JP Nadda is coming to West Bengal in the first half of the next month to take stock of the situation. Will Nadda’s visit help the state’s BJP unit in arresting factional infighting and the exodus of senior leaders? IANS tried to find an answer.

A seasoned state committee leader of the BJP in West Bengal, who did not wish to be named, told IANS that since the very beginning there had been a distance between the party veterans and the turncoats in the party’s state unit. “However, unfortunately there has not been any initiative to bridge that gap. Our national president is coming to the state next month after having a full briefing about the growing differences in the ranks on this veteran versus turncoat issue. We hope that our national president will give some clear instructions on this issue,” he said.

In fact, the BJP’s internal differences on this veteran versus turncoat issue became evident from the contradictory statements by the party’s national vice president, Dilip Ghosh and the party’s state general secretary, Anupam Hazra on the Arjun Singh issue.

Ghosh did not want to give much importance to Arjun Singh’s return and also questioned the contribution of the latter in developing the party’s organization in West Bengal. “He went back to the Trinamool Congress unable to bear the pressure from the state and police administration. His exit will not be of any consequence for the party,” said Ghosh.

However, Hazra, who also joined the BJP from the Trinamool Congress before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, thinks the opposite. “After every incident of exodus, a section of our leaders downplay the event and claim that nothing will happen. This is not the right approach. Rather the leadership should introspect on why this exodus is happening,” he said.

In fact, not everyone in the Trinamool Congress is happy over the return of Arjun Singh, which is evident from their statements on this count. Veteran Trinamool leader and three-time Lok Sabha member, Saugata Roy said that Singh’s return will neither benefit nor harm the party. Similarly, three-time party legislator Partha Bhowmik said that when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the party’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee have approved Singh’s return he is bound to accept that.

According to political analyst Dr Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, turncoats rarely become long-term assets for any political party unless the shift in camp happens because of strong ideological links or an uncompromising approach to social evils like corruption.

“The wind in favour of the BJP in West Bengal became strong since the 2018 state panchayat polls, which prompted leaders like Mukul Roy and Arjun Singh to shift to the BJP in 2019. The wind became stronger before the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls and that prompted more leaders to join the BJP. But after the poll results were announced the reverse wind became strong and the return of the prodigal leaders started. Now my question is that if the wind in favour of the BJP becomes stronger is there a guarantee that these turncoats will not again shift camps. Or is there a guarantee that the BJP will again welcome them as it have done before?” (IANS)

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