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Is Delhi creating another power center in Bengal BJP?

The elevation of Suvendu Adhikari in Bengal BJP has raised many questions, and the most prominent is that central leadership treads a different path then what its mentor RSS believes-- sticking with old guards

Kolkata: The dynamics in the West Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are changing fast. After its loss, another big setback had been the defection of the party’s national vice-president Mukul Roy to the ruling party.

Political analysts are also pointing out another shift in BJP’s approach to regional politics. They say a party, which has always been closely connected with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in its functioning, is slowly moving out of it and a prime example of it is Suvendu’s elevation as leader of opposition in the Bengal assembly, ignoring old-timers.

In neighbouring Assam, the party anointed another recruit Himanta Biswa Sarma as the chief minister. These elevations of recruits, political strategists say, were unheard of in earlier times.

Election of Suvendu raises many questions

Raising Suvendu’s stock further within the party has been his recent visit to New Delhi, where he got an audience from the Prime Minister, Union home minister and also the party president, without the knowledge of the state chief.

When Suvendu was in Delhi, he had missed a meeting called by the BJP’s Bengal state unit, when asked Dilip Ghosh about his absence, he had reacted, “Suvendu was aware of the meeting. Still, he went to Delhi, Why he went I am not aware. Leaders in Delhi can say better.”

The importance is given to Suvendu by central leadership hints that he is being made to stand before the stature of TMC’s top leaders.

But as every coin has two sides, the elevation of Suvendu had not only made Ghosh uncomfortable but immediate reaction comes from in the form of the defection of Mukul Roy. Roy, the founder of TMC, returned to his home, along with his son.

Another power center

Political analyst Udayan Bandopadhyay pointing to the sharp reaction of Dilip Ghosh when asked about Suvendu’s Delhi visit, says the party, known for its discipline and ideology, is suffering from indiscipline. It is going the Congress way, the party of the’80s. He though is not ready to equate Suvendu’s position with that of Biswa Sarma in Assam. “You can’t equate the two. Assam has a different political history from West Bengal. Sarma was instrumental in building up the passion against Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF. But the party could not replicate that against the Trinamool. Biswa Sarma had taken part in the socio-political movement in Assam, whereas Suvendu can only claim to his credit is the Nandigram movement, which was much smaller in magnitude,” he said.

bengal bjp suvendu adhikari center
Dilip Ghosh and Suvendu Adhikari | Courtesy:

In Bengal, the saffron brigade missed a trick by not projecting a Bengali leader. “The party’s manifesto was launched by Amit Shah, instead of a Bengali. We later saw how the Bengalis rejected the ‘outsiders’,” said Bandopadhyay.

Analysing Suvendu as a leader, Bandopadhyay said, “He is a byproduct of the Congress culture (which never had discipline as its forte), whereas Dilip Ghosh has had a Sangh background. Till now, he only was basking in reflected glory. Now is the time for Adhikari to prove his mettle. Let’s see how he fares.”

Political observers also believe that the BJP may be creating another power centre in Bengal. “Two power centres can exist; there is no problem with that – one within the legislature and another, outside. But somebody has to discipline them,” felt Bandopadhyay.

Three factions in Bengal BJP

Senior Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, commenting on the BJP’s present situation, said, “The fissure in the BJP has come out in the open after the loss. The Sangh Parivar had always been associated with the BJP. The Sangh products are Dilip Ghosh and Rahul Sinha among others. Then there are leaders, who joined the BJP from TMC much ahead of the assembly elections. Suvendu falls in the third category, recent recruits just ahead of the polls. These 3 factions are now feuding.”

Union minister Babul Supriyo rubbishes any such suggestions of discord within the state unit. He told eNewsroom, “He fought the election against the tallest leader in Bengal today and won. He was chosen leader of the opposition. He can naturally come to Delhi. What is there to speculate?” On the many voices of criticism surfacing in the open, courtesy the social media, he said, “In a democracy, everyone has the freedom to voice their opinion but the party stands united.”

Sources in the party acknowledge that the state BJP chief reaction at a press meet made things obvious. “He shouldn’t have reacted in that manner. He made things obvious by his statements. After the vote, there have been tectonic changes. Let the dust settle. Discussions are on in Delhi on Bengal politics and in a month a clearer picture would emerge. Suvendu is an important leader in Bengal BJP. He will get importance wherever he goes. His clout over his people has to be acknowledged.”

Political analyst Bhaskar Sinha Roy says that many of the probable defectors in the BJP are waiting to see what post and responsibility Mukul Roy gets in the Trinamool. “The BJP leaders sounding the discordant note may not do so in the days to come if Roy doesn’t get a good bargain,” he said.

Gargi Mukherjee, a staunch supporter of Suvendu and part of the Dadar Anugami team in Haldia, who moved to the BJP from the TMC along with her leader, believes the Nandigram MLA is a fighter and is also accommodative. “Dada (Suvendu) knows how to take people along with him. He always discourages us from focusing on individual goals but collective interests. The importance he has been getting in the party has made us believe that people with potential are promoted irrespective of their background. His Delhi visit makes that amply clear,” she said.

Significantly, even after the claims of more than 200 seats and forming next government in Bengal, BJP could get only 77 seats (after two people’s resignation and Mukul Roy’s departure, they have 74 MLAs), but neither party’s state president take responsibility nor centeral leadership has been able to remove him. Now it will be interesting to see, how ‘the gamble’ to elevate Suvendu works for the party.

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