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BJP surge at cost of CPM and Cong

Rahul Sinha

Calcutta, July 7: State BJP president Rahul Sinha today said around two lakh people had joined the party as primary members since the Lok Sabha polls in May, an over 70 per cent surge for the organisation that is trying to establish itself as the principal Opposition in Bengal.

“The BJP has got over 1.91 lakh new members in the past one-and-a-half months,” Sinha said in Calcutta.

The party had 2.62 lakh primary members in Bengal two years ago, which remained almost the same till the Lok Sabha polls. The number has increased to 4.53 lakh in July.

The state BJP president said a growth in numbers was “expected” following the party’s improved performance in the general elections, when it bagged 16.8 per cent of the votes polled. “But the rate has surprised us,” Sinha added.

From rising discontent with the Mamata Banerjee government to attempts to escape “Trinamul-sponsored atrocities”, a number of factors has contributed to the surge, BJP insiders said.

“Even CPM activists who are unable to get support from their leaders (to counter alleged Trinamul terror) are joining the BJP in hordes,” said state BJP general secretary Asim Sarkar.

Several BJP sources attributed the defections from the Congress and the CPM in Bengal to the fact that Narendra Modi’s party was at the Centre and could apparently provide “better security” to those loyal to it.

Although the BJP had only two MLAs elected in the Lok Sabha polls this time, the party was ahead of Trinamul in at least 35 Assembly constituencies. The performance has also prompted the Trinamul government to allegedly delay polls to 17 civic bodies where the BJP has got leads in most wards.

But the rise in the BJP’s primary membership has come at the cost of the CPM and the Congress.

Till March, the CPM had around three lakh members. “But the number has dwindled sharply in the aftermath of the BJP surge,” a CPM state secretariat member said.

The Congress, too, has seen a dip in numbers. A state Congress vice-president said that almost 25 per cent of its four lakh members had joined either the BJP or Trinamul.

Councillors switch

Councillor Dipak Das of the Trinamul-controlled Suri municipality in Birbhum joined the BJP on Monday along with Congress councillor Ramesh Sau of Barrackpore in North 24-Parganas.