The beleaguered Bengal BJP appeared for the second consecutive day to be in a state of disarray with its indecision on a candidate against chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the Bhowanipore Assembly bypoll.
As the BJP’s myriad of woes were compounded by the Election Commission of India’s declaration of the bypoll in the Bhowanipore seat, sections within the party even started mulling over moving court to try and get a stay from the judiciary on the by-election.
The Trinamul Congress on Sunday formally announced Mamata as its candidate for the Bhowanipore bypoll which will be held on September 30. The party also nominated Jakir Hossain and Amirul Islam for the Jangipur and Samserganj bypolls, respectively.
According to a section of state BJP leaders, the party’s Bengal unit had a misplaced sense of confidence that the Election Commission would continue toeing the saffron camp’s line and keep deferring the bypolls so that Mamata would miss her November 5 deadline to get elected to the Assembly.
“It is surprising that our leaders had no plan B and actually had unflinching faith in the central leadership’s ability to browbeat the commission into further deferring the bypolls. They never really considered the possibility of the bypolls taking place any time soon. As a result, no candidate was seriously considered. Some leaders think of approaching the judiciary for a stay on the bypoll,” a state BJP functionary said on the condition of anonymity.
Mamata lost a contentious election — now being challenged in court — in the Nandigram seat by a margin of 1,956 votes (0.85 per cent of the vote share) to the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari. However, she led her party to a historic 213-seat victory in 292 constituencies that went to the polls.
The chief minister’s home turf of Bhowanipore was vacated by agriculture minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay in May for her to contest. Having taken oath as chief minister on May 5, she needs to get elected to the House before November 5.Another source in the BJP said in the preliminary discussions regarding the nomination, it had been found out that there was only one person willing to accept the daunting challenge of contesting against Mamata in Bhowanipore, where the result is deemed a foregone conclusion.
“Many of us think that someone popular, a heavyweight candidate must fight against Mamata, although there is almost no chance of a victory, simply to send a positive signal down to the grassroots,” he said.
“Suvendu Adhikari keeps boasting of defeating Mamata at Nandigram, albeit by the skin of his teeth. He had also claimed before the Assembly polls that she would’ve lost from Bhowanipore as well. Why doesn’t he step up again?” he asked.
Another section of the BJP, close to state chief Dilip Ghosh, wants to field former state president Tathagata Roy from Bhowanipore. Roy has been a fierce critic of Ghosh and his leadership in the aftermath of the party’s poll debacle.
“Tathagatada has been publicly criticising the leadership since we lost the poll, especially over the selection of candidates. Let him now show his love for the party and his abilities as a candidate, by contesting against Mamata,” said a leader close to Ghosh.
Most of Bengal BJP’s A-listers, including Roy, remain unwilling to take on Mamata, said multiple sources in the party.
In case nobody agrees to take up the challenge, the BJP will have to once again field actor-turned-politician Rudranil Ghosh, another Trinamul turncoat, who contested from the seat and lost to Chattopadhyay this summer by nearly 29,000 votes, nearly 23 per cent of the vote share.
The state committee of the BJP will meet on Tuesday to decide on three possible names for each bypoll, said BJP spokesman Shamik Bhattacharya.
These options would be sent to the national election committee, which will take a final call.