Interview | 'Modi Should Control Hotheads in Bengal Unit': BJP's Chandra Kumar

In this two-episode interview on 'Badi Badi Baatein', Chandra Kumar Bose talks BJP, PM Modi, Mamata Banerjee & more.

8 min read

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

"Mamata Banerjee is a mass leader. She is certainly our political opponent but she is able to feel the pulse of the people where I think with our leaders there is a gap," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Chandra Kumar Bose.

The grandnephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Chandra Kumar is known to voice his opinion on several issues while not always towing the party line. Be it the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or the hijab controversy, the West Bengal BJP leader has had contrasting opinions from the party several times.

Chandra Kumar, however, has immense respect for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his "pragmatism."

In the first part of this two-episode interview on 'Badi Badi Baatein', Chandra Kumar talks about the reasons behind the saffron party's struggles in West Bengal, what keeps Mamata Banerjee at the helm, why polarisation does not work in the state, and the legacy of his granduncle and freedom fighter Netaji Bose.

Hello, Mr Bose! Welcome to The Quint and The Quint Hindi, and welcome to our show Badi Badi Baatein. This phrase, as I ask all my guests, can be interpreted in a lot of ways. How do you see this term politically in India today?

Well, in politics, cutting across all political parties and the leadership of Badi Badi Baatein keeps happening in politics. But when the work is done through choti choti baatein, then I think the political fraternity is actually doing its work because big talk is always there, rhetoric is always there in politics.

We need to step aside. We need to pause for a while and stop the Badi Badi Baatein, and look into the smaller issues that concern the 140-crore population that we need to support as part of being the political fraternity.

What do you think of the smaller issues that are hindering the country’s progress right now, or the people's welfare?

My great-uncle, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, when he was the president of the Indian National Congress in 1938 and 1939, he had a vision for India. What he had stated in his Haripura Congress speech in 1938 as president of the Indian National Congress, he had said that the major problems, the major issues in our country are illiteracy and disease.

You know, we have just celebrated 75 years. We are in the 76 years of our independence. But I think we have failed as a nation to build an India that the liberator of India Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, had envisioned. He wanted to eradicate illiteracy. We have definitely progressed. No doubt about it, but not the way we are; a far cry away from Subhash’s dream of India.

Where do you think the Bharatiya Janata Party is falling behind in West Bengal? Because with all its might we still see the TMC and the Mamata Banerjee government doing well election after election. Where do you think the BJP is lacking in the state?

Well, the Bharatiya Janata Party was doing quite well in West Bengal. If you see from 2016 when I contested elections against the Honorable Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. So there has always been an upward trend as far as the vote percentage is concerned.

People don't like polarisation in Calcutta and surrounding areas. They believe in inclusive secular politics. So, I think we went wrong there. First of all, there were organisational issues.

We unfortunately, there are many leaders in the BJP, Bengal, but we need booth level workers. We need the cadre. BJP is a cadre-based party like the CPI-M. But then unfortunately, the cadre we have definitely built it up, but not as strong to combat the Trinamool Congress, which is in power.

However, due to polarisation, North Bengal and certain border districts, we were able to win 18 seats, as you are aware. But whether we would sustain, you see the Bengal electorate, Bengal politics is somewhat a little different compared to northern India and other parts of India. We believe in inclusive politics.

Here, Subhas Chandra Bose’s ideology needs to be implemented on the ground. Now I think we failed partially - I won't say entirely - in order to convey to the voters that we are inclusive. And secondly, the organisational strength.

And the other issue that I would like to say, you see, when Narendra Modiji was coming to the state, he was the face of BJP. He always the face of BJP across the country. But you need a Bengal face. You see in Bengal, people would like to know who would be your Chief Ministerial candidate. Unfortunately, in Bengal we couldn't project.

There are many tall leaders in Bengal in the BJP, but unfortunately the party did not project a CM candidate.

Mamata Banerjee is a mass leader. She has come up from the grassroots. She knows her politics, she knows Bengal. You know, it's like the palm of your hand. So, I think she is a very strong opponent. So, you need a strong face from BJP to really contest Mamata Banerjee as our CM candidate.

You spoke about polarisation in the state. Where do you think this polarisation is coming from? Do you think there are certain leaders or maybe certain units within the West Bengal BJP that do cater to that kind of politics?

Yeah, there are certain leaders that are hotheads. I think for BJP leadership, one of the difficult tasks I think that Narendra Modi ji, Amit Shah ji, and JP Nadda ji have is to keep a check and control the hotheads in the party. They make a sweeping statement without realising the impact.

There were a lot of statements and comments made during the Lok Sabha elections and subsequently in 2021 during the Assembly elections, which really went against the party. So, I think you need to understand the heritage, history and culture of Bengal.

Bengal is unique. You cannot have the same policy that you practice in Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh which are very big states, very important states, no doubt. But what will work politically in UP will fail in Bengal and that's exactly what happened.

I had given suggestions. I had worked out the entire political strategy for Bengal. Certain of my proposals, certain parts of it were followed, but most of it were not really followed.

Later on, I was told that I was right. But then you didn't follow them during the election. I feel we would have gained another 30 seats if my suggestions would have been practiced.


Would you like to tell us some of the suggestions that you had given which were not followed eventually?

I had suggested that stalwarts in Bengal like Swami Vivekananda, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Bankim Chandra - we should have such stalwarts, their photos, their ideology, what they actually stood for in all the meetings that we had during the campaigns. And the other issue is - we should not directly criticise Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool. You see, Bengal people and the electorate are fully aware what TMC stands for, what they have done, and what they have not done. It's not that they haven't done anything. So, if we make a sweeping statement that the TMC is a complete failure, that's incorrect.

What we should have done is - we never projected what we will do in Bengal if given a chance and if we come to power in Bengal, what are we going to do. Also, using abusive language - Bengal is not used to abusive language. Now, you might say that there's a lot of violence during the election in Bengal. Yes, political violence has been a practice in Bengal, but we have to drift away from that. But no, we encourage violence. We, in fact also attack. So, if we are attacked, we will fight. A lot of people said you are from Netaji's family. If somebody attacks you, are you going to silently take the beating? No, we would not. But unnecessarily, we are not going to incite people.

Violence during elections - Who do you think is to blame? Because election after election, that is the thing and that is the concern which most of the people have. Who exactly is to blame here? Do you think there are elements across political parties will incite this violence? 

Absolutely. Absolute is the political guns have no colour. They can be hired by any political party. They change colour like a chameleon. They campaign for me on a single day and the next day they are with the other party, they float around at a cost.

The leadership has to take the responsibility of controlling. If you cannot control the goons, don't hire them. If you hire them, you must control them. It is not only the party in power, all parties and their goons are responsible for this violence and loss of lives.


What do you think is the administrative solution to this violence? Because this is predicted before every election. Even in the recent panchayat elections, we saw a lot of loss. Do you think the state government falls short of controlling the law-and-order situation during the elections?

Law and order is a state subject. But during the elections, it is the election Commission who takes the responsibility ass we are aware. So, I think the election Commission must be more proactive. They must immediately take suitable steps where there is a law and order issue. 

But I somehow find that it's a knee jerk kind of reaction. Why doesn't the Election Commission and its officials take steps? You have the central force with you, utilise the central force, stop the violence.

What, according to you, are the administrative positives of the government in the state? After all, its managed to rule for almost three decades now. 

Well, Mamata Banerjee, as I have already stated, is a mass leader. She is certainly our political opponent but she is able to feel the pulse of the people where I think with our leaders there is a gap. I mean, let's admit it. And one thing good is that when any incident happens, even now when she's the chief minister and even when she was leader of the Trinamool Congress, if any incident took place, she immediately reached out. Now, I think we have failed to do that. We have been trying. Yes, all our leaders have been reaching out to them, but I think we need to be more focused and work in that direction.

We have not been able to match Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress' reach even when they were in opposition. As far as the administration is concerned, there are failures, there are certain loopholes which we find. But if you see on the whole, political violence is there in Bengal. But the other kind of violence, which is a lot prevalent in other states, - I wouldn't like to mention the states because that's not my way of politics but you know the states I'm talking about - law and order, general law and order, security to women, I think Bengal is still one of the safest states. Kolkata is still one of the cheapest places to live in. You can you get good square meal for a very small amount of ₹100. I don't think you can get that meal anywhere in the country. So, there are a lot of positives as far as Bengal is concerned. But I would give these plus points to the people of Bengal.


You yourself have contested elections against Mamata Banerjee. There might have been people who have told who told you that it is going to be a difficult task. What made you take up the challenge anyway?

Well, I believe in contesting a strong candidate and you can't get a stronger candidate than Mamata Banerjee in Bengal. I was a little reluctant initially because I wanted to win the election. I could have probably done much better if we had more organisational strength. But I feel it's always nice to contest against a strong candidate like Mamata Banerjee than contesting against a weak candidate and winning.

The INDIA alliance - how do you perceive this coalition

If there is no strong opposition, then there is no democracy. Bharatiya Janata Party has, as you know, won 303 seats in the Lok Sabha. Okay, it's good people supported us. But unless there is strong opposition, if there is no opposition voice in Parliament and outside, then we have failed as a democracy, then we are gradually going towards an autocracy. So that is very clear. It's not that because BJP is there or anybody is there.

So, I feel the India alliance should be successful. There should be a strong opposition in Parliament so that the government also functions correctly. But the chaos that is happening in Parliament - no discussion, bills are passed without any discussion, without proper discussion, I would say, and screaming and shouting across the floor of the House. I think this is not what is expected. So, we need a strong opposition. But the problem is there should be a common minimum program. The program should not be just to win the election and just for somebody to become the prime minister.

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