The BJP does not have any dearth of national issues to tie itself up in knots. Yet, it has fallen upon the sari to land an associate organisation in a tangle.
Some leaders are discussing threadbare whether an audio message by Bengal BJP Mahila Morcha president Agnimitra Paul passes the conflict of interest test.
Paul’s message entreats members of the women’s wing to buy a sari featuring the lotus, the BJP’s symbol. Such symbol-laced merchandise is fairly common in the country now.
But here’s the catch: Paul, who is also a fashion designer, designed the sari. Besides, the appeal was uploaded on the 39 official WhatsApp groups of the Mahila Morcha. The sari is priced Rs 280 apiece and the sale proceeds will not go to the party fund.
All of which appear to have stitched together a perfect ensemble for a whisper campaign.
“How can anyone be allowed to sell any item through an official platform of the party if the proceeds do not go to the party fund?” asked a senior BJP member who did not want to be named.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said in response to a question: “I’m aware of the initiative and have approved it. The proceeds from these sales will not come to the party.”
Some members of the Mahila Morcha said the message from Paul, who had joined the BJP in March 2019 and became the president of the women’s morcha in June 2020, shocked them.
The BJP Bengal headquarters on 6 Muralidhar Sen Lane in Calcutta has a party-run store which sells books, masks and caps with the party symbol. Sources in the party said income from the Vastu Bhandar went to the party fund.
Paul expressed surprise at the controversy. “I believe that in any programme, if all of us wear similar dresses, it will look good. The money from the sale will go directly to the vendors who are making this sari. I’ve designed it but without any remuneration,” Paul told this paper.
She added that her studio had been closed for four months because of the lockdown and the saris would not be made by her company.
“The saris I make are quite expensive. (For the lotus saris) vendors, out of their love for the party, are charging only the cost of the raw materials,” Paul added.
So far, 13 saris have been sold, she said, out of the 40 initial orders. The prospects are brighter if the audio message connects with all the members, totalling over 800, of the 39 WhatsApp groups.
Evidently, the statistical twists and turns of the sari are tracked closely. A member said: “In May 2019, during the rally led by Amit Shah in Calcutta, she designed 1,170 saris and sold them for Rs 750 each.”
Paul said she was asked to design the saris for Shah’s show.