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Bengal politics comes a full circle as BJP struggles to keep its flock together

Kolkata: TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during interaction with media after trends show her party's win in the State Assembly Election 2021, in Kolkata, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (PTI Photo/Swapan Mahapatra)(PTI05_02_2021_000255B)

Kolkata: TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during interaction with media after trends show her party's win in the State Assembly Election 2021, in Kolkata, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (PTI Photo/Swapan Mahapatra)(PTI05_02_2021_000255B)

In the run-up to the West Bengal Assembly polls, defections were used by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a political tool and talking point as several leaders of the incumbent Trinamool Congress joined the saffron party. However, less than three weeks after the election results, politics in West Bengal has come full circle, with the BJP now trying to keep its flock together.

After its humiliating defeat, the BJP, citing attacks and violence on party cadre had accorded central security to its elected MLAs . However, a few of the BJP MLAs have now refused to accept central security citing issues relating to logistics.

“I don’t think I need central security at this point of time. There is no threat for me in the town I grew up in. Moreover, I use a two-wheeler for commuting and it is not possible for me to house central security or provide vehicles for them,” BJP MLA from Siliguri Sankar Ghosh told The Hindu .

Similar arguments have been presented by at least two other BJP MLAs — Anandamoy Barman from Matigara Naxalabari and Chandana Bauri from Saltora in Bankura. A section of political observers however, said the reason to refuse central security is because the MLAs do not want to be under surveillance. Mr. Ghosh, though said his decision had nothing to do with evading the surveillance of central forces.

The political shift was evident within days of the results, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hinting that “doors are open” for those who want to return to the Trinamool Congress less than 48 hours of her landslide victory.

While the BJP has managed to accommodate former Trinamool heavyweight and Minister Suvendu Adhikari by appointing him Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, the party is finding it difficult to deal with veteran leaders like Mukul Roy, who have remained conspicuous by their absence at BJP meetings and events.

Also read | Centre accords VIP security cover to Suvendu Adhikari’s father, brother

“My fight would continue as a soldier of BJP to restore democracy in our state. I would request everyone to put the concoctions and conjectures to rest. I am resolute in my political path,” Mr. Roy had tweeted on May 8. Despite the tweet, speculation about Mr Roy’s political future have refused to die down.

Biswanath Chakraborty, Professor of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati University and a keen political observer, said that not only MLAs but even MPs may jump ship from the BJP and join the Trinamool in the next few weeks.

“Two months is not a very long time in politics but in West Bengal, the past two months have been extraordinary. There has always been a tendency to side with the ruling party in the State. Even during the Left regime, the political hegemony of the CPI(M) pervaded all sections of society. Similarly, after the results of Assembly polls of 2021 , a new realignment, particularly of opportunist elements, is bound to happen,” Prof Chakraborty said.

A crucial aspect of the BJP’s rise in West Bengal is that the rank and file is full of leaders from other parties and the party will find it difficult to keep its flock together while in Opposition. Nearly 30 MLAs had joined the BJP, mostly from Trinamool Congress just months or even weeks before the Assembly polls. The BJP gave tickets to most of them, but many lost the elections. Since then leaders like former Trinamool Minister Rajib Banerjee, former MLAs Prabir Ghosal and Vaishali Dalmiya , have stayed away from the public eye.

On May 22, four-term MLA Sonali Guha, who had joined BJP on March 8 after she was denied a TMC ticket, wrote an apology to Ms. Banerjee , and requested that she be allowed to return to the party. “Just like a fish cannot stay out of the water, I will not be able to live without you. ‘Didi’, I seek your forgiveness and if you don’t forgive me, I won’t be able to live. Please allow me to come back and spend the rest of my life in your affection,” Ms. Guha wrote in a letter addressed to the Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson.


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Printable version | Jul 3, 2022 2:07:20 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bengal-politics-comes-a-full-circle-as-bjp-struggles-to-keep-its-flock-together/article34624145.ece