Internal rift may derail BJP bid to revamp Bengal unit

The idea behind the restructuring plan is to decentralize power, according to the group backing the current president of the party in the state, Dilip Ghosh


A file photo of West Bengal state BJP president Dilip Ghosh (right) with his predecessor, Rahul Sinha. Photo: Hindustan Times
A file photo of West Bengal state BJP president Dilip Ghosh (right) with his predecessor, Rahul Sinha. Photo: Hindustan Times

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) attempt to restructure the functioning of its West Bengal unit may be hobbled by rivalry between two key local leaders.

The party is looking to create 42 focused units, or so-called district committees—one for each of the state’s Lok Sabha constituency, said Jay Prakash Majumdar, general secretary of the BJP in West Bengal.

Currently, there are 34 such units.

The idea is to decentralize power, according to the group backing the current president of the party in the state, Dilip Ghosh.

He has proposed that the annual Utthan Divas—or Elevation Day—celebrations on 30 November be held differently this year.

Ghosh wants party workers to hit out at the Trinamool Congress, the BJP’s main rival, at the grassroots level—through demonstrations spread across the state—instead of a large congregation in Kolkata. He said the aim is to address people across all districts and talk about chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s “misrule” and false claims on the demonetisation’s effect on India’s economy.

While the current president wants to spread out to widen the BJP’s support base across the state, his predecessor, Rahul Sinha, said there was no reason to do away with the annual rally in Kolkata.

The rally gave an opportunity for BJP workers from across the state to come together, said Sinha.

The BJP went through a lot of pain last year to organize the annual rally.

It was attended by Amit Shah, the party’s national president, and seen as a major success, said one of Sinha’s confidantes, who asked not to be identified.

“The current leadership doesn’t seem to appreciate the importance of such a public gathering,” this person said. “If he was indeed trying to prove a point to Sinha, a better idea for the current president would have been to organize a bigger rally than last year than completely change tack.”

The Trinamool Congress organizes with much fanfare a similar rally in Kolkata on 21 July every year to commemorate the killing of opposition workers in police firing on the city’s streets in 1993.

Ghosh’s team cited the results of the recently concluded bypolls to justify its decision to spread out its activities to the districts.

Earlier this year, the BJP got only 5.68% of popular votes in the seven assembly constituencies that comprise the Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency. But in the recent by-election at Tamluk, the BJP’s vote share rose to 15.09%.

The same is true for Coochbehar in the north of the state, where, in the recent Lok Sabha bypoll, its vote share jumped to 28.3% from 16.57% in the general election two years ago.

The current leadership is of the view that spending large sums of money on a “centralized rally” in Kolkata is not the “right thing to do”, said a leader close to Ghosh, who, too, asked not to be identified. Going forward, the BJP in West Bengal will distribute more resources among its workers at the grassroots level, he added.

Asked about his differences with his predecessor, Ghosh denied that there was any strong opposition to his plans.

He, however, said workers from the districts will always be given the opportunity to share their ideas with the state-level leadership at the review meeting held on the first Thursday of every month.

Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharathi University and an election analyst, said chief minister Banerjee’s pro-Muslim stance has helped the BJP consolidate its hold among Hindus in the state.

But the party suffers from internal feud, Chakraborty said, adding that it is time for the BJP to shift focus to workers at grassroots level.

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