The BJP’s fight against corruption in the ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal is failing to get traction, prompting the party to seek support from its arch rivals — the CPI (M) and the Congress.
The saffron party continues to be plagued by factional feuds and erosion of support base, the twin problems confronting it ever since its defeat in the 2021 assembly elections.
After the TMC found itself mired in corruption charges following the arrest of two of its top leaders, the BJP leadership expected a groundswell in the party’s favour.
Lack of ground support
To take advantage of the current political situation, the state unit of the BJP lined up a string of protest programmes across the state, including a plan to lay a siege to Nabanna, the state secretariat in Howrah.
Contrary to party’s expectation, its street protests so far lacked the punch befitting of a main opposition party of the state, triggering a creeping sense of doubt whether its proposed march to the secretariat would be successful.
It had initially planned to hold the ‘mega show of strength’ on September 7. But later it was postponed to September 13 on the ground that the date coincided with Karam puja, the harvest festival of the state’s Adivasi community.
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“The party leadership was very much aware of the date of Karam puja when they had announced the protest programme. They (leadership) are now using the festival as an excuse to buy time because from the grassroots the response for the programme is not very encouraging so far,” said a disgruntled BJP leader who did not wish to be named.
Whatever semblance of support the BJP still has in the state is among the Adivasis and Matuas, a scheduled caste community. So, the leadership reportedly realized lately that without the participation of the Adivasi community, it could no way make the programme a success. Hence, the postponement.
Appeal to all
Even after deferring the siege, there is still apprehension about the success of the programme within the BJP. This became apparent, when the party’s state president Sukanta Majumdar appealed to all opposition parties in the state to join its “Nabanna abhijan” to put up a joint fight against corruption of TMC leaders.
The BJP leader further urged that “those in the TMC who are still honest” should also join the stir” under the saffron party’s banner.
“The call of the hour is that in the interest of 10 crore people of the state, the BJP, TMC, CPI (M) and the Congress should set aside their political differences to put up a fight, coming out of the fear chamber, against the TMC government’s corruption, faulty policies and whimsiness,” Majumdar said in a social media post.
The former Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, who is known to be a Majumdar baiter within the party, surprisingly backed the ‘strange idea’ of his successor.
“If parties with contrasting ideologies can join front against the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, why the same cannot be done against the high-level corruption in Bengal?” Ghosh asked, backing Majumdar’s unity call.
Expectedly, both CPI(IM) and the Congress dismissed the idea, refusing to distinguish between the TMC and the BJP.
Both the CPI(M) and the Congress have separately hit the streets to protest “corruption in the TMC”.
Failure to take advantage
The ruling TMC’s image took a beating after two of its senior leaders were arrested recently over graft charges, while many others are facing probe.
A senior state minister and general secretary of the party’s Bengal unit Partha Chatterjee was arrested in connection with irregularities in recruitment of teachers.
The party’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mandal was arrested in connection with a cattle-smuggling case.
Far from taking advantage of the situation, the BJP is fast losing ground to the CPI(M), which had failed to win a single seat in the last year’s assembly elections. This was evident when in the by-election to a municipal ward in Asansol held earlier this month, the CPI(M) finished second after the TMC, continuing the trend being seen of late in many civic bodies of the state.
The BJP had won the Asansol Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 2019. But after its Asansol MP Babul Supriyo joined the TMC last year, the party lost the seat to Shatrughan Sinha of the state’s ruling party in the by-poll held in April this year.
The BJP sources attribute the party’s slide to infightings and disenchantment over its functioning.
“Many Left Front supporters particularly in rural areas had come to the BJP fold ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections just to defeat their arch rival TMC. They had no inclination for the BJP’s ideology. Nevertheless, because of them, our support base suddenly swelled and we did extremely well in the general elections winning 18 of the state’s 42 seats,” said a senior BJP leader.
“But when the party indiscriminately started roping in TMC leaders to the extent of almost becoming a clone of the Trinamool, they lost interest in us. After our 2021 defeat, they have even started returning to their parent organisations,” he added.
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He said the hard-core original BJP supporters though remained with the party, they too are not very happy, leading to factionalism.
The rift in the BJP once again became evident when two of its legislators from Murshidabad skipped the party state president’s protest programme against corruption in the district on Thursday.
Baharampur MLA Subrata Maitra (Kanchan) and Murshidabad MLA Gouri Shankar Ghosh gave a miss to Majumdar’s programmes even in the past.
In another instance of intra-party tussle, the BJP’s Tamluk organisational district president Tapan Banerjee on Friday lodged a police complaint against seven persons, including two senior district leaders of the party for allegedly attacking him with rods and hockey sticks.
“Two of our party district leaders Sintu Senapati and Uttam Sen came with 20-25 people and attacked other party workers and me with rods and hockey sticks when we were discussing at a tea stall about the forthcoming protest programme of the party state president in the district,” Banerjee said.
The BJP insiders say because of factionalism, the party’s protests against corruption are not getting momentum.
By seeking support from the rival parties to back its Nabanna abhijan, Majumdar has only exposed the party’s weakness.