The BJP central leadership has delivered a stern message, once again, to the party’s Bengal state unit that is wracked by differences and ego clashes among senior functionaries and severe factionalism among the middle-order and junior karyakartas.
The latest such message was delivered by BJP national president Jagat Prasad Nadda to the top three functionaries of the state unit in New Delhi Monday (19 December) evening.
Nadda met state unit president Sukanta Majumdar, leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikary and former state chief Dilip Ghosh at the Moti Bagh residence of Union Minister of State for Education, Subhas Sarkar.
In attendance were party national general secretary (organisation) B L Santosh, and the party’s Bengal minders Sunil Bansal, Mangal Pandey, Asha Lakra and Amit Malviya.
While Santosh urged the Bengal leaders to work together, Nadda made it very clear that the leadership was unhappy with Ghosh, Adhikary and another senior leader Saumitra Khan for speaking against each other in public.
Nadda and Santosh made it clear to the Bengal leaders that differences and infighting will not be tolerated. The Bengal leaders were told that their loose remarks were demoralising the party workers.
According to sources who were privy to the deliberations, while Khan was asked to refrain from voicing his grievances in public, Dilip Ghosh was asked not to make snide remarks against his colleagues.
“Dilip Ghosh was told to stop sulking over his removal from the party president’s post. The need for discipline was made clear to him. He was told that allocation of responsibilities was the prerogative of the party leadership and everyone in the party has to accept the leadership’s decision like loyal and disciplined soldiers,” said the source.
Ghosh was also asked to start campaigning vigorously for the panchayat elections in the state scheduled for early next year.
“He (Ghosh) was asked to draw up programmes, especially in the south and southwestern parts of the state, in close collaboration with the state party leaders (meaning his successor Sukanta Majumdar). He was told he cannot act independently. And everyone was told that a coordinated and comprehensive campaign highlighting the Trinamool’s corruption and misgovernance needs to be drawn up very soon,” the source added.
The central leadership appreciated the lead taken by Suvendu Adhikary in the campaign against the Trinamool and his no-holds-barred offensive against Mamata Banerjee, her nephew (Abhishek) and other Trinamool seniors.
But he was requested to ignore barbs by a couple of state BJP leaders against him and work for the party’s success in the panchayat polls.
State party president Sukanta Majumdar was reportedly told to play a more active role in the campaign against the BJP and take the lead in party activities as well as campaigns at the grassroots level.
Majumdar was also asked to take personal initiative in resolving differences between his party colleagues.
Monday's (19 December) meeting was significant for two reasons.
One, it was the first time that Nadda held an important organisational meeting with state-level leaders away from his office. The only exceptions have been high-level party meetings at the residences of the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Usually, all meetings with state-level leaders are held at Nadda’s office at the BJP headquarters at New Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg.
Nadda’s presence at a meeting of state leaders held at a junior minister’s residence speaks volumes about the topmost priority being accorded to sorting out the troubles bedevilling the Bengal unit of the party.
Two, Monday’s (19 December) meeting came close on the heels of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s meeting with the state leadership at the party office in central Kolkata on Friday (16 December) night. Shah, who was in Kolkata last weekend to chair a meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council, drove straight to the BJP office after landing in the city.
Friday (16 December) night’s meeting with senior state leaders, including Adhikary, Majumdar, Ghosh and others, capped two days of intense deliberations chaired by B L Santosh to finalise the party’s strategy for the panchayat polls.
A Bengal BJP leader who attended Friday’s meeting told Swarajya that Amit Shah repeatedly underscored the need for party unity.
“He (Shah) said that the Trinamool can be easily defeated if the state unit is united. The Trinamool, he said, is facing anti-incumbency and its image has taken a beating due to a number of scams like the school recruitment scam, the cattle smuggling scam, the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY) scam and the MNREGA scam, among others,” said the leader who did not want to be named.
Shah reportedly told the state party leaders that if a concerted and intensive campaign is launched against the Trinamool highlighting the scams and the involvement of the top Trinamool leadership in these scams, the Trinamool can be easily defeated in the panchayat polls.
The state unit, he added, needs to tap and leverage the latent anger that prevails among the people, especially in the rural areas of Bengal, over corruption in the Trinamool and the involvement of Trinamool functionaries in various scams.
The Union Home Minister also said that unity among the state leaders was necessary to enthuse the party workers and give them the confidence to fight the Trinamool.
He said that the party should also be fully prepared for intimidatory tactics and attacks from Trinamool cadres. “A divided party cannot fend off attacks from the Trinamool. So party unity is absolutely necessary,” said Shah.
Shah explained to the state BJP leaders that the panchayat polls will lay the ground for the party’s performance in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“Amit Shahji explained that a good performance in the panchayat polls will enthuse party workers to work real hard for the Lok Sabha polls and will also put the BJP on the path to improving its 2019 performance (when it won 18 Lok Sabha seats) from Bengal. And a very good performance in Bengal is crucial to give Prime Minister Modi a stronger mandate than what the nation did in 2019,” said the BJP leader.
But for all that to happen, state leaders have to resolve their differences and face the panchayat poll battle unitedly.
Hidden in the subtext of the messages conveyed by Amit Shah and Nadda to the state party leaders was that bickerings and power-plays will not be tolerated any longer. Egos will have to forsaken, past bitterness forgotten and all differences sunk in the greater interest of the party. Anyone who cannot do so will be relegated to the sidelines.
Nadda, and Amit Shah before him, made it unequivocally clear that party unity is of utmost importance and no hurdles on the road to electoral success will be tolerated.
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