West Bengal

Scant Representation Of Bengal In Union Cabinet Triggers Discontent In State BJP And Taunts From Trinamool

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jun 10, 2024, 12:41 PM | Updated 12:41 PM IST

A BJP supporter with party flag during an election campaign rally. (Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
A BJP supporter with party flag during an election campaign rally. (Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • Limited Bengal representation in Union cabinet sparks BJP dissatisfaction and taunts from Trinamool.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengal — its leaders, functionaries, cadres and supporters — have been left sorely disappointed by the under-representation of the state in the Modi 3.0 government. 

    Only two faces from Bengal — state unit president and Balurghat Lok Sabha MP Sukanta Majumdar and Bongaon MP Santanu Thakur — were sworn-in as ministers of state (MoS) at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday evening. 

    Expectations were high that of the 12 newly-elected BJP MPs from the state, at least one will get a cabinet rank and at least two to three will be inducted as junior ministers. 

    But Bengal has, once again, been given only perfunctory representation in the Union council of ministers. An MoS, unless given independent charge of a department, is actually quite powerless and more so if the cabinet minister he/she reports to is a senior and powerful one. 

    Though allocation of portfolios is awaited, it is widely felt that Majumdar, who lacks administrative experience, will be an MoS in a lightweight ministry and will not get any major responsibilities. 

    He has been inducted into the Union council of ministers in order to remove him from the Bengal state president’s post after the disappointing performance of the party in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls. 

    Majumdar, a two-time MP, was a professor of botany at Gour Banga University in Malda. He has been closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for many years. 

    Santanu Thakur is a leader of the Matua community (a Hindu religious sect of Dalits) which has a decisive presence in at least four Lok Sabha and 15 assembly constituencies in Bengal. The BJP has been wooing the community, with a lot of success, over the past few years. 

    But Thakur’s performance as MoS in the Ports, Shipping & Waterways Ministry (headed by Sarbananda Sonowal), it is learnt, has not been remarkable. He has played a largely ceremonial role, standing in for Sonowal at official events. There is, thus, little chance of Thakur being given any significant responsibility now. 

    Many BJP leaders and functionaries who spoke to Swarajya since Sunday evening said they were sorely disappointed with the under-representation of Bengal. 

    “The central leadership has committed a grave error. Assembly elections are two years away and if it (the central leadership) is serious about winning in Bengal, it should have made one MP from Bengal a cabinet minister. That would have sent a clear signal to the people of the state that the BJP is serious about Bengal and cares about Bengal,” said a senior office-bearer of the party who did not want to be named for obvious reasons. 

    Another senior leader of the party took the example of Kerala where only one BJP MP has won, but two leaders from the state — the state party general secretary George Kurian and the newly-elected MP from Thrissur, Suresh Gopi — were sworn in as ministers. 

    “We can understand that the party wants to woo Christians in Kerala in order to perform well in the assembly elections in that state in 2026. So doesn’t the central leadership want the party to do well in Bengal? If Kerala, with just one BJP MP, can have two berths in the Union council of ministers, why should Bengal with 12 BJP MPs have only two junior ministers?” wondered the BJP leader. 

    Bengal BJP leaders have, since Sunday evening, been looking up the representation of various states in the Modi 3.0 government. And they have formed a strong impression that the party central leadership has not been fair to Bengal. 

    “Uttar Pradesh has 33 MPs, but has been given 11 berths while Maharashtra has 12 NDA MPs (BJP and its allies) but has got six berths. These choices are dictated by political compulsions and calculations, and those same compulsions and calculations should also have led to Bengal getting a good representation. We don’t know why that did not happen, but it is unfortunate and has left us disappointed. Our cadres will be demoralised,” said another senior party leader. 

    At least one MP who was expecting a place in the Union council of ministers has already raised the banner of revolt. 

    Bishnupur MP Saumitra Khan has threatened to leave the party since he has not been “treated fairly”. Khan, a three-time MP, was with the Trinamool before he joined the BJP before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 

    Khan won the Bishnupur Lok Sabha seat on a Trinamool ticket in 2014, and won the same seat as the BJP nominee in 2019 and this time as well. His entry into the BJP gave the party an entry into what is called the Rarh Bengal region. The BJP won three assembly seats under the Bishnupur Lok Sabha constituency for the first time in 2021. 

    “It was due to my joining the BJP that the party did well in Rarh Bengal in 2021. I got as many as seven people elected on BJP tickets to the state assembly. I’ve worked hard for the party, but if the party is not fair to me, why should I stay in the party? The BJP in Bengal is being run by people who’ve never won an election. The party central leadership is promoting people who are dragging the party down in the state,” said Khan. 

    Though he attended the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday evening, he said he’s keeping his options open. One option, he clearly stated, is returning to the Trinamool. Khan had, a few days ago, praised Abhishek Banerjee for his “political acumen”. 

    The poor representation of Bengal in the Modi 3.0 government also triggered taunts from the Trinamool Congress. Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien referred to the two from the state who have been made MoS as “half-pant ministers”. 

    “These half-pant ministers will be ineffective. The BJP has insulted Bengal once again. It cares very little for Bengal. Making just two MPs from Bengal as junior ministers exposes the true colours of the BJP,” said O’Brien.

    Bengal BJP leaders, while acknowledging that the Trinamool’s criticism is justified, said they fear that the Trinamool Congress will use this as another stick to beat the BJP with. 

    “This ‘half-pant minister’ taunt is likely to become popular and will damage us politically. It will be used to strengthen the impression among the masses that the BJP central leadership is unfair to Bengal,” said the senior BJP office-bearer. 

    Also read: 

     Wish-List For Prime Minister Modi From Bengal: A Cabinet Post And Couple Of MoS Berths

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