Bengal BJP Finally Gets Its House In Order With Old-Timers And Newcomers Working Together To Unseat Trinamool

Bengal BJP Finally Gets Its House In Order With Old-Timers And Newcomers Working Together To Unseat TrinamoolThe old guard and the newcomers of Bengal BJP come together to battle the Trinamool.
Snapshot
  • The road show featuring Sovan Chattopadhyay and Baisakhi Banerjee signifies the end of the last hiccup in the BJP’s state unit.

    The party is now ready to take on Trinamool.

A rally organised by the Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in South Kolkata on Monday afternoon marks a turning point for the state unit of the party.

The rally was led by Sovan Chattopadhyay, former Kolkata mayor and one-time close confidant of Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee, and his partner Baisakhi Banerjee.

Chattopadhyay’s participation in the rally is being, justifiably, celebrated in state BJP circles as a final mark of unity in the party.

That’s because the former Kolkata mayor, who joined the saffron party on 14 August 2019, had been holding back from actively participating in the BJP’s campaign for the crucial assembly polls due a few months from now.

Chattopadhyay, who was also the housing minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet, has been holding back from participating in BJP programmes and meetings due to differences with the party’s old guard.

BJP old timers have been resenting the importance that entrants from other parties have been getting in their party and the important posts and assignments being given to them.

Many old timers felt that they were being given the short shrift even after having dedicated themselves to the party for many years.

Some of them told Swarajya that they felt that giving newcomers important posts and responsibilities would also demoralise party cadres.

“We have spent decades in the service of the party and have faced many adversities all these years. It is disheartening for us to see that instead of being rewarded for our service and loyalty to the party, we are being sidelined and defectors from other parties are being rewarded,” said a veteran BJP leader who has been associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since his childhood.

But the BJP central leadership realised that the services of newcomers from other parties, especially important ones from the Trinamool, would be critical to winning the elections.

The party central leadership realised that the new entrants from other parties, especially the Trinamool, were well-versed in realpolitik and the art of ‘election management’ in Bengal.

Hence, their complete and whole-hearted involvement in party affairs, especially in crafting and executing poll campaigns, was critical for the party.

Mukul Roy (a former Trinamool leader), for instance, played a crucial role in the BJP’s handsome victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Many other influential leaders from the Trinamool, Congress and Left parties who joined the BJP before the 2019 polls also played important roles in helping the saffron party win 18 seats from Bengal.

“These leaders (from other parties) who have joined us have very good grassroots connect and command the loyalty of booth level workers who play a crucial role on the day of the polls. They (these leaders) also have intimate knowledge of the election process and how to prevent rigging and other electoral malpractices that the Trinamool is adept at,” said a senior central BJP leader, who is one of those overseeing party affairs in Bengal.

In view of this, the BJP central leadership has told the old-timers in the state setup to work in unison with the newcomers.

“It is not that the old-timers, those who have served the party selflessly all these years, will be sidelined. They are also being given their due importance. But it is important for us to win Bengal, and in order to achieve that objective, we have to be practical and put available resources to optimum use,” said the central BJP leader.

The reshuffle in organisational posts at the national level in end-September last year also sent a clear message: that newcomers who work wholeheartedly for the party will be rewarded.

Mukul Roy was made the national vice-president while former Trinamool Lok Sabha MP Anupam Hazra was appointed as national secretary.

The reshuffle also sent a message to the old-timers: that they could not take themselves for granted any longer. Former state unit chief Rahul Sinha, who was national secretary, lost his post.

Sinha was deemed by the party bosses as an ineffective leader who failed to make the BJP a strong force in Bengal. He also could not win the 2016 assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls from North Kolkata which has many BJP supporters.

But despite the clear message sent out to the grumbling old-timers in the party, they continued to keep the newcomers at bay and avoided sharing responsibilities with them.

Ultimately, in end-November, the party’s top leadership, including party president J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, held a series of meetings with the state leaders and asked them in unequivocal terms to sink their differences and work together.

While all the newcomers were given responsibilities and everyone started working in right earnest, an influential section of old-timers held out against Sovan Chattopadhyay.

These old-timers felt that Chattopadhyay’s open association with Baisakhi Banerjee — the two are described as ‘partners’ and Chattopadhyay and his wife had an acrimonious fallout — is not in consonance with high moral standards that the BJP advocates.

Chattopadhyay had been insisting that his ‘partner’ be given due importance in the party. While the old-timers were happy to accommodate Chattopadhyay, they had reservations about giving responsibilities to Banerjee and treating Chattopadhyay and Banerjee as a ‘couple’.

But these old-timers were asked recently to drop their objections and reservations and reach out to Chattopadhyay. The BJP state leadership was also told to make all efforts to accommodate Banerjee.

Ultimately, the state leaders fell in line and the Chattopadhyay-Banerjee duo were given prime responsibilities of crafting the BJP’s election strategy and implementing it in the crucial Kolkata region that has 51 assembly segments.

“Everyone is working together now and there are no differences. Everyone has been given specific responsibilities and the party is working unitedly to win the assembly elections,” said state president Dilip Ghosh.

Monday’s road show featuring Chattopadhyay and Banerjee thus signifies the end of the last hiccup in the BJP’s state unit.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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