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BJP MLA Count Down By 6 Since Bengal Polls: Why Is It Failing To Retain Leaders?

BJP's tally of MLAs in the Bengal assembly has come down to 71 from 77 since the state polls earlier this year.

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Politics
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BJP MLA Count Down By 6 Since Bengal Polls: Why Is It Failing To Retain Leaders?
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Three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs from West Bengal joined the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the last six days, bringing down the saffron party's tally to 71 from 77 in the West Bengal Assembly.

On Saturday, 4 September, Soumen Roy, MLA of Kaliaganj joined TMC. Three days prior to Roy’s joining, MLA from Bagda Biswajit Das returned to the TMC fold. And a day before that Bishnupur MLA, Tanmay Ghosh also joined TMC. Earlier, on 11 June, BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy, returned to the TMC fold after spending 44 months in BJP. One thing is common in all four leaders, they were all associated with TMC at some point in time.

Two MPs, Nisith Pramanik and Jaganath Sarkar, who contested the assembly elections, resigned after winning to save their respective membership in the parliament.

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Since TMC’s emphatic win in the recent assembly election, BJP’s Bengal unit was facing a massive organisational crisis. The party is virtually imploding with an acute leadership crisis at the state level. The loss further demoralised the saffron party’s rank and file.

BJP workers complained that during the post poll violence, both the state and central leadership of BJP remained aloof.

“Not one single leader received our calls when we were in need. They abandoned us at our worst time, these people don’t deserve to be our leaders,” said Bapon Mallick of Habra in North 24 Parganas district.

This has created anger among the local BJP workers as they took to social media to revolt against their leaders. The resentment is not confined to some particular area or district; across the state, the mood is the same.

Days before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s scheduled visit to North Bengal, BJP convened an organisational meeting in Siliguri. However, five MLAs from the region skipped it.

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Leadership Crisis

State president Dilip Ghosh wasn’t even aware of the meeting.

“I don’t have a meeting in North Bengal. Don’t know who called it and who attended it,” Ghosh told the media. After the election results were declared, Ghosh was sidelined by a section of BJP leaders in the state.

BJP’s leadership crisis in the state was not new, but the central leadership’s timely interventions managed to save the organisation from collapsing.

After the election drubbing in Bengal, the party's central leadership is not much keen in controlling and monitoring the organisation's daily affairs in the state. This has made the fissures more visible within the party leadership.

End of July, BJP MP from Asansol in West Bengal, Babul Supriyo said that he was quitting politics. In a Facebook post, Supriyo cited that the difference of opinion between him and certain BJP leaders in the state is one of the reasons for his decision. He even added that infighting between senior leaders harmed the party and broke the morale of its workers.

The two-time MP, however, reversed his decision after meeting BJP’s national president JP Nadda and said that he will continue to support Narendra Modi and would help the people of his constituency as a public representative, but won’t participate in any political activities.

In multiple districts, Ghosh had to face protests by agitated BJP workers whenever he went for organisational meetings. While attending a meeting in Asansol, the unsettled party workers even locked up Ghosh and other leaders inside a local party office.

A section of BJP workers and state leaders didn’t accept the party's decision to elevate Suvendu Adhikari as the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly.

“Our workers complained that they don’t want Suvendu Adhikari as the LoP. The party decided otherwise, which is why many workers have become inactive. Even now we get complaints that he (Suvendu Adhikari) doesn't respond to calls, doesn't speak to party MLAs. Now, the party is split into power centres and it is harming the most,” said a senior BJP leader, who doesn't want to be named.

Prior to Supriyo, another saffron party MP Saumitra Khan stepped down as the West Bengal chief of the BJP's youth wing after slamming Adhikari and accusing him of stealing the thunder of other state leaders.

“The manner in which he (Suvendu Adhikari) is going to Delhi frequently and misleading the leaders, he is trying to project as if he is the tallest leader of BJP. In sadness, I resign as the Yuva Morcha president,” Khan said in a Facebook live. But within hours, the Bishnupur MP withdrew his resignation.

BJP MP from Alipurduar and Minister of State (MoS) for Minority Affairs, John Barla recently sparked a controversy by demanding a separate state or territory carved out of North Bengal. BJP MP from Jalpaiguri Jayanta Roy and Darjeeling MP Raju Bista supported Barla’s demand.

Many BJP leaders from south Bengal distanced themselves from this demand and dubbed it as a personal statement and not of the party’s. The state chief initially said it was Barla who made the comment in his personal capacity and the party is against any form of division of Bengal. However, he recently flip-flopped and supported Barla's demand for bifurcation of the state.

BJP in Bengal is a broken house and the growing discord within the state leadership is leading to an exodus.

And this exodus doesn't just involve MLAs.

In less than one month, after the assembly results were declared, TMC has captured two gram panchayats in BJP strongholds. Bhetaguri I gram panchayat in Dinhata Block in Cooch Behar and Raniganj II-gram panchayat in Malda districts’ Gazole block are now controlled by TMC. A large number of leaders at the panchayat-level, panchayat samiti-level and zilla parishad-level are also joining TMC on a daily basis.

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Greener Pastures

Tops sources in TMC told The Quint that more MLAs are in queue awaiting top leaders' decisions. Sources have confirmed that two more MLAs from north Bengal—Satyendra Nath Ray of Gangarampur and Krishna Kalyani of Raiganj, are likely to join the ruling party in Bengal soon.

Previously, both these MLAs were associated with TMC. While Roy was a TMC MLA from Gangarampur, Kalyani’s father was a senior TMC leader and councillor of Raiganj town.

It must be noted here that TMC is breaking BJP in their stronghold. Like Biswajit Das’s constituency, Bagdha has substantial Matua voters. Matuas are a closely-knit group in the state belonging to the Namashudra Dalit community, who largely sided with BJP since the 2019 general elections. Similarly, Soumen Roy represents Kaliaganj constituency, which is reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) community, majorly Rajbongshis. Rajbongshis form a part of the SC community in the state’s northern part.

“Many BJP MLAs are in line to join our party, but not all will be taken. Our party supremo, Mamata Banerjee will take a call on this on a case-to-case basis. BJP MLAs understood that their political careers will be over if they stay in BJP. Many are apprehending that the Modi government will go after the 2024 election, so they are taking decisions,” said a senior TMC MP.

“BJP, as a party, has become directionless in Bengal. It is undergoing a massive leadership crisis right from Mondal-level to its state unit. Over the years, ideology has taken a backseat in Bengal. Power is the only factor determining political moves of the leaders. Moreover, Trinamool’s culture is to alienate the opposition MLAs by not involving them in administrative and developmental processes. A vector sum of all these factors are forcing BJP MLAs to join the ruling block,” said political commentator Biswanath Chakraborty.

(Himadri Ghosh is a Kolkata-based journalist reporting on politics and policy in the state of West Bengal. He tweets @onlineghosh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the authors' own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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