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Wings clipped, Sikdar calls party chief names

Calcutta, Nov. 11: Squabbles in the BJP’s Bengal unit peaked today with party veteran and Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Tapan Sikdar calling state BJP president Tathagata Roy a “liar and an autocrat who is violating the directives of the central leadership”.

“I remained silent for a long time,” Sikdar thundered. “But time has come to speak in public against Roy, who has been telling lies about me ever since he took over as the state unit chief,” Sikdar said. The Central minister added that he would lodge a formal complaint with the party’s national president, Venkaiah Naidu, on his return to Delhi.

Resenting the manner in which some of his loyalists were dropped from the party’s new executive committee, Sikdar told a news conference this afternoon that he was not consulted at all before it was constituted.

“Roy did not take me into confidence before finalising the names of the new office-bearers despite a directive from the central leadership. Roy did not discuss the matter before announcing the committee,” he said.

Sikdar, however, is expected to meet Roy in Malda on Thursday to talk about possible changes to the committee. “A review has to be undertaken to induct party functionaries with organisational capability,” he said, even as he “regretted” the “unceremonious” removal of the lone executive member from the minority community, Muzaffar Khan, and youth leader Pratap Banerjee.

Party sources said the Sikdar loyalists, stung by the “humiliation”, have planned demonstrations in the districts Roy is scheduled to visit in the coming days. “We shall unveil the programme by organising a black flag demonstration when Roy arrives in Malda,” said a party functionary.

Sikdar also discounted Roy’s reported claim that he was under pressure from the RSS to drop several key office-bearers of the outgoing committee. “I was state unit president for four consecutive terms and I am sure that the RSS never meddles in organisational matters,” Sikdar said.

The Union minister also resented the manner in which Roy offered to write to Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee seeking an alliance for the panchayat elections slated for early next year.

“Why should we write to Mamata before she decides her party’s stand vis-a-vis the Bengal BJP'” Sikdar asked. Roy’s decision to woo Trinamul openly has caused serious resentment among the party rank and file, he said. “I feel the overtures to Mamata, who intends to take a decision on the issue only after the Gujarat Assembly election, is nothing but an abject surrender. We should condemn Mamata for her opportunist stand.”

Reacting to Sidkar’s decision to go public against him, an angry Roy said it was an attempt to “malign” him. “It is unfortunate. Tapanda is being misguided by self-seekers who have prevailed on him,” he said.

Roy contested Sikdar’s charge that he had not consulted him before framing the new panel. The state party president, who recently replaced Sikdar loyalist Asim Ghosh as the BJP chief, claimed that he had called on Sikdar at his central Calcutta residence to discuss the formation of the committee. “The allegations against me will not only send a wrong signal to the party’s rank and file but also give a handle to the ruling CPM to campaign against the BJP before the panchayat elections,” Roy said.

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