Who’s Bengal BJP’s 2021 CM Face? Here’s What The Grapevine Says
After sifting though political "analysis" columns, here are some people who seem to have thrown in their hats.
One of the biggest challenges for the West Bengal BJP ahead of the 2021 state elections is to put up a credible, believable Chief Ministerial face opposite Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee.
Since "sources say" in modern Indian journalism has stopped meaning much, let's just say that the political grapevine has thrown up names of a few Dadas in the BJP who intend to take on Didi.
Based on regular reading of political "analysis" columns and some of our own digging, here are some people who seem to have expressed their desire to fight for the top post. There's also one "wild card" contender. Read on to find out.
1. Dilip Ghosh
West Bengal BJP President, Dilip Ghosh, is presently seen as the top contender to be the party's face in the electoral race. At the helm of the party's Bengal affairs since 2015, Ghosh steered the BJP to its massive gains in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, after a dismal loss in the state elections of 2016.
He's currently also an elected member of the Lok Sabha.
Ghosh satisfies the criterion of being a RSS man, traditionally seen as a requisite to be a BJP Chief Minister, in spite of several exceptions. He has also spewed enough commentary on cow urine, beef, and women of Jadavpur University to prove his Hindutva-hardliner credentials.
However, in terms of his equation with the Delhi high command, Ghosh might be lacking compared to some of his colleagues in the Bengal BJP. There's also a public perception of Dilip as a shoot-from-the-hip, abrasive character, that many, even within the BJP, do not see as something that might "culturally" appeal to Bengal.
Recent news reports in West Bengal have also pointed towards a growing internal rift within the BJP between pro and anti-Dilip factions...but more on that as we talk about the next few contenders.
2. Babul Supriyo
BJP MP Babul Supriyo is being seen as one of Ghosh's chief contenders for the Chief Ministerial race as well as Bengal BJP president-ship. Unlike Ghosh who is in the middle of his first Lok Sabha term, Supriyo has been elected MP from Bengal's Asansol twice.
He has also served as minister of state during both these terms, and is presently MoS for Environment, Forest and Climate change.
Reports point at a rift between Dilip and Babul Supriyo, a speculation which gained more steam when earlier this year, Supriyo criticised Ghosh for saying that anti-CAA protestors should be "shot like dogs".
“Our governments in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka shot these people like dogs,” Ghosh had said.
"BJP, as a party has nothing to do with what a Dilip Ghosh may have said. It is a figment of his imagination", Supriyo responded, calling Ghosh's comments "irresponsible".
Supriyo's more "refined" image vis-a-vis that of Ghosh is what he is said to be pushing in order to make a case for himself.
3. Mukul Roy
Of all the challengers to Dilip's president-ship and position in the Bengal BJP, Mukul Roy's name has come up the most.
Roy, once Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee's Man Friday, joined the BJP in 2017. Mukul's organisational skills helped the BJP make massive inroads in Bengal in the 2018 panchayat elections, as well as the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
However, with the BJP now having established a ground-level foothold in the state, there were reports of Roy being increasingly sidelined by the Dilip-led dispensation. He also does not hold any executive post in the state BJP.
Last month, The Quint had reported that Roy was in talks with the Trinamool Congress in order to pressurise the BJP central leadership into giving him a ministerial berth in the Modi cabinet. It is heard that state president-ship and CM candidature are other demands that have been hinted at.
4. Tathagata Roy
Just having ended his terms as governor of Meghalaya, Tathagata Roy, a BJP man, has expressed his desire to return to politics.
"After my tenure as the governor ends, I would like to return to active politics and serve West Bengal. After I return to my state, I will talk to the party (about it). It is up to them to accept or reject my proposal", said Roy.
Roy was president of West Bengal BJP from 2002 to 2006.
He too has been a staunch critic of Ghosh's remarks and continues to oppose them, even as the state organisation of the party faces a leadership crisis.
"We don't worship the cow in the sense that is done in north India...different parts have different cultures so we have to talk in terms of our Bengali culture...And rationality is a part of the Bengali culture, we want to appeal to people's reason, we don't want to appeal to their love for the cow", said Roy in a recent interview to India Today.
However, when it comes to abrasive comments, Roy has probably been as much in the news (if not more) than Ghosh. For example, a statement that is likely to haunt him if he does aim for the Chief Minister's chair, is one he made in 2019, when he said that Bengalis were either "mopping floors" or "working as bar dancers in Mumbai".
Communally insensitive statements, too, form a regular part of Roy's Twitter armory.
(Bonus!) Sourav Ganguly
Who better than the OG Dada to take on Didi? Since Sourav Ganguly's appointment as BCCI President, the Kolkata political circles are rife with discussions of the BJP possibly pulling him in to campaign for Bengal 2021.
It is said that Ganguly's possible role in the Bengal BJP is something that is being discussed and handled by the central leadership of the party, and the state leaders have been largely left out of talks. Sources say that the BJP is trying to woo the former cricketer, whose mass following in Bengal is almost unmatchable, with assurances of a greater role in the BCCI, and later the ICC.
However, Ganguly is reportedly unwilling to join unless given a bigger, important role in the state unit of the party. Over the last few months, several pages have been floated on social media and speculative news articles have been planted to test the waters and see how Ganguly as a politician was being received, a BJP insider told The Quint.
But given Ganguly's smart play, not just on the field, but even when it comes to his relationship with political leaders, the move looks like it will take some time, if it happens at all.
It is also important to consider that given Mamata Banerjee's overwhelming personality cult, the BJP might eventually decide to fight without a CM face. This may be especially true as a less charismatic figure, pitted against Mamata, may rattle the party's existing strongholds in the state. But as they say in politics, as long there's power up for grabs, there will be politicians scrambling for it.
(With inputs from PTI and India Today)
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