BJP In Bengal Continues To Besiege Itself With Self-Inflicted Crises, But Why?

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jan 10, 2022 03:25 PM +05:30 IST
BJP In Bengal Continues To Besiege Itself With Self-Inflicted Crises, But Why? Home Minister Amit Shah and Bengal BJP leader Dilip Ghosh. 
Snapshot
  • If similar decisions continue to be taken in similar manner, the BJP would find it impossible to win (in 2024) even a small fraction of the 18 Lok Sabha seats it bagged from Bengal in 2019.

A few days ago, two BJP candidates for the forthcoming elections to the Asansol Municipal Corporation set out to file their nomination papers. Local BJP leaders were shocked to discover that instead of filing their papers, the two landed up at the Trinamool Congress office to join that party.

Discounting the comic aspect of these two dramatic defections from the BJP to the Trinamool, what it also demonstrates is an abject failure on the part of the local BJP leadership and the flawed process of offering party tickets to candidates whose loyalties are highly suspect.

In fact, the BJP continues to pay a heavy price for offering party tickets to undeserving candidates. This was one of the primary reasons for the party’s abject failure to realise its goal of unseating the Trinamool from power in the Assembly elections held last year.

The BJP leadership, in its wisdom, offered party tickets to defectors from the Trinamool in the run-up to the Assembly polls, ignoring the claims of long-time workers and loyalists.

Almost all these defectors lost, and the saffron party also forfeited the support of its loyalists in the process. After the elections, most of the turncoats returned to the Trinamool, thus embarrassing the saffron party.

That the BJP leadership failed to learn any lessons from the Assembly polls debacle became amply clear during the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections last year-end. Here, again, undeserving candidates —including many defectors from the Trinamool, new entrants, unknown faces and family members as well as camp followers of party functionaries —-were given party tickets at the cost of party loyalists.

‘Winnability’ of candidates appeared to have been the last box to be ticked by the state party leadership during the exercise of giving party tickets, an exercise that was also clouded by allegations of corruption and nepotism.

The state BJP leadership appears to have embarked on exactly the same suicidal course of action on the eve of the elections to at least two of the civic bodies — Bidhanagar (Salt Lake) and Asansol — which go to the polls along with Chandannagar and Siliguri on January 22.

According to party insiders, tickets have been awarded to newbies and those with only tenuous links with the BJP. In many cases, tickets have been given to family members and relatives of state leaders.

Most of the BJP nominees stand slim chances of even saving their security deposits, leave aside winning. The BJP seems destined to repeat its pathetic performance in the KMC polls where it could win just three of the 144 seats.

But the state BJP leadership seems to be unfazed by the prospect of another humiliation at the hustings. Defections like that of the two party nominees in Asansol recently are sought to be explained away as aberrations.

But it is not just defections of two civic poll nominees that the BJP has to contend with. The latest crisis facing the party is the acute disgruntlement among the party MLAs and MPs from the Matua community.

The Matuas are scheduled caste migrants from Bangladesh and are a very well-organised community. They were actively wooed by the BJP, including Prime Minister Modi, who visited the headquarters of the religious order the community owes allegiance to, in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2021 Assembly elections.

The Matuas voted in large numbers for the BJP, resulting in the saffron party winning at least seven Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha seats with the community’s support.

But, inexplicably, representatives of this community who have stood solidly behind the BJP in recent times were ignored and excluded from the state and district-level committees that were reconstituted recently. The exclusion of Matuas from these committees defied logic and can only be attributed to a strange death wish that seems to have gripped the BJP in Bengal of late.

Confoundingly, even after the Matua MLAs and MP — Santanu Thakur, the Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways — expressed their severe displeasure by quitting party WhatsApp groups, the BJP leadership has not taken any steps to placate these angry representatives of the community.

Thakur, and the MLAs representing the community, have gone public with their displeasure over their exclusion from the party’s organisational set up and have issued enough warnings about their intent of quitting the party.

But the BJP leadership has chosen to ignore these warnings.

The BJP in Bengal is a divided house and while many defectors from the Trinamool have quit and returned to their original party, what should be cause for alarm is that many old-timers and party loyalists have disassociated themselves from the saffron party.

A huge number of workers have already renounced their ties with the BJP in the wake of the party leadership’s inability to stand by them when they were facing brutal retribution from Trinamool goons immediately after the Assembly elections.

That’s one of the main reasons behind the poor show put up by BJP candidates in the KMC elections, a performance that is bound to be repeated in Bidhannagar, Asansol and Chandannagar as well.

There are reports of many old-timers and party loyalists, disgusted with the state of affairs in the party in Bengal and confounded by the party leadership’s refusal to set things right, planning to distance themselves from the BJP.

If this erosion continues and matters are not set right immediately, the BJP would find it impossible to win (in 2024) even a small fraction of the 18 Lok Sabha seats it bagged from Bengal in 2019.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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