The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebels gun for Sikdar, speak for Mamata

Calcutta, Sept. 9: Dissidents in the Bengal BJP today slammed the leadership for its anti-Mamata Banerjee stance, a day after central leaders stressed on reviving the alliance with the Trinamul Congress chairperson whom they hailed as a crucial component of anti-Left forces.

They also lashed out at former state unit president Tapan Sikdar for his statements yesterday in which he had reiterated that continuing the alliance with Mamata would be disastrous as “she is out to destabilise the BJP”.

“I don’t know what Tapan had said about Mamata but fully subscribe to the central leaders’ observations about her. The fact remains that Mamata is the lone anti-Left force in Bengal who can effectively meet the challenges from the ruling CPM,” said Sukumar Banerjee, a former state president.

“So, an alliance with her is necessary to fight the communists,” he added.

Banerjee, a key functionary, called upon the leadership to work out the party’s strategy keeping in mind the directive of the central leaders. “With barely six months to go for the panchayat elections, we should begin the groundwork and see if we could tie up with the Trinamul Congress,” he added.

Several other dissidents echoed him, training their guns on state unit chief Asim Ghosh and even calling for his replacement. “If Ghosh as Sikdar’s man does not shun his anti-Mamata stance, the organisation will definitely suffer reverses in the coming panchayat elections,” observed another leader who did not want to be named.

The functionary felt that the party, which was virtually wiped out in the May Assembly elections as it had fought independently, would meet a similar fate if “we don’t forge an alliance with Mamata”.

The BJP’s youth wing also sounded critical about the leadership’s attitude towards the Trinamul leader.

“Political reality in Bengal demands a tie-up with Mamata’s Trinamul Congress despite ideological differences. Central leaders have correctly stated that the party cannot afford to miss Mamata despite some of her negative qualities,” said Swapan Das, a former national executive member from the Yuva Morcha.

Insiders said that those opposed to Sikdar and Ghosh had lodged a complaint against the current leadership during an interaction with the party’s all-India general secretary, Sanjoy Joshi, at the central Calcutta office. Joshi was here for two days to attend the BJP’s zonal conference.

According to these sources, the BJP central secretariat would soon meet to decide on a possible shuffle in the state unit’s organisational set-up.

“Though the process of organisational elections will begin next month, the central leadership may remove Ghosh long before the panchayat elections,” said one of the dissidents.

Ghosh, however, seemed unfazed by the criticism. The Bengal BJP chief emphasised tonight that the party would fight the panchayat elections on its own if Mamata did not change her stand vis-à-vis the BJP.

“In Bengal, we shall go by what Sikdar had said about Mamata. There is no question of forging an alliance with the Trinamul leader,” he observed.

Sikdar was not available for comment.

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