The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal BJP rift in open

Behrampore, Feb. 11: Factionalism in the BJP’s Bengal unit came out in the open here today when state president Tathagata Roy faced the wrath of workers owing allegiance to Union minister Tapan Sikdar. Both have had a running verbal battle with each other over the past few months.

Several hundred BJPmen rushed to the dais at the Rabindra Sadan auditorium here as Roy rose to address the conference of the BJP’s Murshidabad unit.

“Tapan Sikdar zindabad, Tathagata Roy murdabad,” the men shouted as they rushed towards the dais. The slogan-shouting prevented district party president Renupriya Sen, a Roy loyalist, from making a speech.

After the session, Roy put up a brave front, alleging that the CPM “engineered” the sloganeering against him to discredit his party. “We have a very united party and the CPM has taken this path to destabilise our image in Bengal as the BJP is gradually becoming the only viable alternative to its misrule,” Roy said.

Asked if the state BJP was turning out to be another Congress, Roy conceded that there was some amount of factionalism in the Bengal unit.

“I have become the party’s state president only recently. But I will take (only) a short time to smoothen the differences within the party. The Congress leaders leave their party to form new ones, but you cannot get away with the same in the BJP. Take, for instance, Shankarsinh Vaghela and Kalyan Singh,” Roy said.

Sikdar, minister of state for northeast development and small scale industries, fell out with Roy after he refused to induct any of Sikdar’s loyalists such as Muzaffar Khan and Pratap Banerjee into the new party committee.

Stating that the BJP would have an alliance with the Trinamul Congress during the coming panchayat polls, Roy said he had already telephoned Mamata Bannerjee to talk this over.

“Our central leadership does not meddle in elections to the panchayats and the municipalities. And as long as I am president here, we will have an understanding with the Trinamul Congress.”

On Sikdar’s open resistance to any alliance with the Trinamul, Roy said: “He does not know the issues and has been giving wrong statements to the media. These demonstrations against me in several districts along the same lines as today’s are only demeaning the image of the party.”

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