Rattled by a series of desertions, the BJP central leadership is desperately trying to work out a truce among warring leaders of its West Bengal unit to prevent a larger exodus.
The Bengal BJP suffered a series of setbacks of late with many of its middle-rung leaders quitting the party with their supporters to join the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
The latest bout of defections from the saffron party started on July 31. On that day, Biplab Mitra, a prominent leader of North Bengal and a former TMC MLA from Harirampur in South Dinajpur district, left the BJP to return to his former party.
Mitra had joined the BJP in June last year.
Several of his supporters and younger brother Parasanta Mitra, a former chairman of Gangarampur Municipality in South Dinajpur, too rejoined the TMC.
On the same day, Biswarup Ghosh, the president of BJP’s Berhampore town unit in Murshidabad district too joined the TMC with some of his supporters.
Incidentally, addressing the party’s annual martyr’s day rally on July 21, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had appealed to those who had left the party to return ‘home.’ She had also urged like-minded people to join the party.
Many in the BJP responded to the call to switch over to the TMC. On August 3, a prominent tribal leader of the BJP Sandip Ekka from Alipurduar, another north Bengal district, joined the state’s ruling party along with the heads of six gram panchayats and eight BJP local leaders and their supporters.
Within a week, the BJP suffered one more blow in yet another north Bengal district when Baliram Ekka, a senior BJP leader from the Jalpaiguri district, returned to the TMC along with his followers on August 9.
In between on August 6 another TMC turncoat and former minister Humayun Kabir rejoined the TMC with his supporters at a public programme at Baharampore in Murshidabad district.
Commenting on the recent ‘ghar wapasis,’ TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said the process of re-induction of the old guard, who had left the party for various reasons, had started, hinting that many TMC deserters might return to the party from the BJP.
It’s not only former TMC leaders who are returning to the party. Even a seasoned BJP leader with an RSS background, Krishanu Mitra, joined the TMC on August 17. He was a former spokesperson of the BJP.
“After Mamata Banerjee’s martyrs’ day appeal, I took the call to join the TMC and fight for the cause of the state,” Mitra said after snapping his two-and-half-decade-long association with the RSS-BJP.
The desertion of its leaders from north Bengal districts particularly is of serious concern for the BJP as the party had done extremely in these districts in the last Lok Sabha elections, winning seven of the eight seats from the region.
The BJP is officially trying to downplay these desertions but party insiders said the development had alarmed even the party’s central leadership, who were hoping to conquer Bengal in the 2021 assembly elections.
To set the house in order, BJP national president J.P. Nadda summoned state unit president Dilip Ghosh in New Delhi on Sunday (August 16). In the parley, Ghosh was reportedly told to sort out his differences with other leaders of the party.
During an hour-long meeting, Nadda told Ghosh to be more accommodative, BJP sources said. The central leadership was particularly peeved over Ghosh’s remark that he alone was enough to dethrone TMC in Bengal.
On the same day, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya flew down to Kolkata to hold discussions with sulking Mukul Roy. In the meeting, Roy had reportedly said he was not allowed to work freely in the party.
Roy was also told to iron out his differences with Ghosh and other ‘original’ BJP leaders.
Though both Ghosh and Roy, publically deny any differences between them, the conflict between these two leaders and their followers is now an open secret in the state. The BJP central leadership is now intervening to sort out the differences as the party gears up for the next year’s elections.
Apart from Roy, even Union Minister Babul Supriyo and journalist-turned-politician Swapan Dasgupta too are not comfortable with Ghosh who often courts controversy making bizarre statements such as Indian cow milk has gold in it or the hump of cow has a blood vessel in it which can produce gold as sunray touches it, according to BJP sources.
He had also asked party workers to drink cow urine to fight COVID.
On occasions, Supriyo had openly snubbed Ghosh’s remark. Even some old-guard of the BJP are not very comfortable with what they called Ghosh’s ‘autocratic style’ of functioning. Former state president Rahul Sinha too is in the anti-Ghosh camp, according to BJP insiders.
Despite growing resentments over his style of functioning, the BJP leaders are reportedly giving Ghosh a long rope because he enjoys the blessing of the RSS, the organisation he had served as ‘pracharak.’
Among his various roles in the RSS, Ghosh served as in-charge of the Sangh in Andaman and Nicobar Islands from 1999 to 2007, and also worked as an assistant to former Sarsanghachalak (head of the RSS) K.S. Sudarshan.
He was loaned to the BJP from the RSS in 2014 and the very next year was made the president of the party’s West Bengal unit. To his credit, the BJP made significant electoral gains under his leadership winning 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats securing 40.25 per cent votes in 2019.