In run-up to Bengal bypolls, exodus to Trinamul worries BJP
Bengal BJP leaders are picking their brains to find the answer to one question: Are more MLAs going to join the ruling Trinamul?
That the state BJP is worried about defections in the legislature party since Mukul Roy moved out in June is reflected in the party’s choice of candidates for the forthcoming October 30 byelections in the four Assembly seats of Khardaha, Shantipur, Gosaba and Dinhata.
Most Bengal BJP leaders including the leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikary are of the opinion that the party’s strategy of giving poll tickets to turncoats had backfired massively. In the 2021 Assembly polls, BJP gave tickets to as many as 173 aspirants who had embraced the saffron fold, a vast majority of these turncoats were from the BJP.
The Bengal unit of the party was largely influenced by the triumvirate of national leaders, Kailash Vijaywargiya, Arvind Menon and Shiv Prakash, all pointing to the stellar result in Tripura where the entire Trinamul moved to the BJP and helped the party form the government replacing the CPM.
The BJP’s national leadership expected an encore in Bengal using the same strategy. “This strategy helped us win in other states but did not work here. We made the mistake of not realising that many of the new entrants to our party were actually joining only to cling to power. That is why there has been an exodus since the results were announced,” said Dilip Ghosh, the former state unit president and Kharagpur MP.
The trio of Vijaywargiya, Menon and Prakash also took inputs from Mukul Roy, who has himself deserted the BJP. Sources said Adhikary’s ties with new state unit president Sukanto Majumdar was better than that with his predecessor Dilip Ghosh, who went his own way. Adhikary has also been able to placate BJP dissidents like Tathagata Roy.
Though the BJP had won 77 seats, two of its MLAs have since resigned and four others—all coming from Trinamul--- have defected. The Trinamul has been claiming many more MLAs are keen to switch sides, and that has put the BJP leaders ill at ease.
“Electorally we do not expect much of a gain from the bypolls. We would like to hold on to the two seats that we had won. But our main objective is to ensure plugging the exodus. Which is why in the selection of candidates preference was given to those who are known BJP-RSS workers in their respective constituencies,” said a BJP source.
The only notable exception is Dinhata nominee Ashok Mandal, though the fact that he had joined the BJP in 2016 when it was a minor force in Bengal went in his favour. Mandal, a former Trinamul MLA from Dinhata, had defeated Udayan Guha, the current Trinamul nominee.
The Santipur nominee, Niranjan Biswas, for example, has been a Sangh volunteer since 1993 and was also the organisational secretary of the BJP’s South Nadia unit.
“The biggest problem we faced in the last Assembly polls was that our polling agents felt disconnected with the nominees, who were either outsiders or were rivals till a few days ago. This time we have fielded people who have spent some time with the party,” said a BJP source.
Of the four seats, two (Santipur and Dinhata) fell vacant as the elected MLAs who were also MPs decided on retaining their respective Lok Sabha seats, while in Khardaha and Gosaba, the winning Trinamul candidates succumbed to Covid-19.
BJP’s best chance is in retaining Santipur, of which even Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is not confident, according to those in her inner circle. Trinamul workers are unhappy with the candidate, Brajakishore Gosain. The ruling party is expected to win the rest of the seats easily.
The four seats go to polls on October 30.