BJP MPs Fighting To Be MLAs: 'Work Hard' Diktat Or Lack Of Faces?
The BJP has fielded four sitting MPs in phase 3 and 4 of the upcoming West Bengal polls.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday, 14 March, announced 27 and 36 candidates for the third and fourth phases of the West Bengal assembly elections respectively.
Similar to the candidate list of rival Trinamool Congress (TMC), the BJP list too had a number of film celebrities. What became the talking point for many, however, were the tickets given to four sitting Members of Parliament (MP). The nomination of the four MPs - Union Minister Babul Supriyo, Hooghly MP Locket Chatterjee, Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik and nominated Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta - has drawn varied reactions from different quarters. Let's take a look at why the BJP may have had to field these names.
Big Names For Tough Seats
The four MPs have all been given tough seats in tough districts.
Asansol MP Babul Supriyo was taken off his turf (Asansol) and fielded from the Tollygunge constituency in South Kolkata. Supriyo is up against three-time MLA and TMC minister Aroop Biswas.
Biswas is known to be an influential leader in "Tolly-para", which is also the hub of the Bengali film industry.
Aroop Biswas and his brother Swaroop Biswas are said to have complete monopoly over the industry.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Trinamool was leading in this assembly segment. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also indicated that she may contest from Tollygunge, along with Nandigram.
On the other hand, Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, has been fielded from the Tarakeswar constituency. In this assembly segment too, the Trinamool was leading in 2019.
Locket Chatterjee and Nisith Pramanik have been kept in their original zones. Chatterjee is contesting from the Chunchura assembly segment, part of the Hooghly parliamentary constituency, which she won in 2019.
Nisith Pramanik has been fielded from Dinhata, part of the Cooch Behar parliamentary constituency, where he's the sitting MP.
The message from the party seems to be clear- leaders, no matter who, are expected to play the role the party wants them to play in order to have this election in the bag. Even if it means that leaders with three more years left in the Parliament will have to put in the hard work to win another election, barely two years after they won their last.
Lack Of Faces?
The Trinamool Congress has criticised the BJP on expected lines stating that the party "does not have enough candidates" to field in all seats.
While MPs running for MLAs may not be a new or rare practice, it is seen as a "step down" for the leader who has been put on the flight back from Delhi. This perception is exacerbated by the fact that a minister, no less, is being asked to fight in the state polls.
Over the course of the BJP's poll campaign the party has had a plethora of "national-level" leaders, sourced from across the country, camp in Bengal. Leading this pack, of course, are Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who are both expected to hold upwards of 20 rallies in the state this election season.
The TMC has called these leaders the "tourist gang" of the BJP. With leaders like Babul and Dasgupta, who have spent most of their time in Delhi since becoming national leaders, being fielded as candidates, the TMC seems to have gained more ammunition to strengthen their "outsider" narrative.
Sources in the BJP, however, say that in many crucial seats, they needed the big names to counter some long-time local and grassroot faces that the TMC has fielded.
Keeping Factions Together
Along with the MPs, the BJP list also had a number of defectors who were given party tickets. Some, like sitting Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya, joined the saffron brigade after the Trinamool refused to give him a ticket. Bhattacharya has been fielded from his present seat by the BJP.
Former TMC leader and sitting MLA from Uttarpara, Prabir Ghoshal, was also given a ticket from the same seat. It's the same for former TMC minister Rajib Banerjee, who has been fielded from Domjur.
Soon after Bhattacharya and the likes were given tickets, there were protests by factions of the BJP across Bengal, who were irked at the "newcomers" getting tickets.
The need for older, "established" leaders of the party to be fielded for these elections, also comes from this dilemma that the BJP is facing. Only a certain number of seats can be given to defectors and celebrity candidates, before internal strife derails the election campaign.
In a way, while factionalism in the TMC helped BJP gain many new faces, factionalism within their own party is stopping them from making use of these faces.
Can the old guard win it for the saffron brigade in Bengal? We'll know on 2 May.
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