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Bengal Polls: BJP Playing it Safe? Amid Fervent Protests, Keeps Turncoats Out of Candidates' List

Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh also has been kept free to oversee poll prep.

Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh also has been kept free to oversee poll prep.

BJP announces names of candidates for 148 seats as discontent grows among veterans as well as party hoppers.

At least four senior TMC leaders including two TMC MLAs, one former MP, a former TMC minister and a CPI MLA who joined BJP recently could not find their names in the list of candidates for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth phases of West Bengal Assembly elections.

BJP General Secretary Arun Singh said, “BJP’s central election committee (CEC) has approved the names of candidates on 148 seats for West Bengal Assembly elections.”

Out of 148 candidates, 42 are for the fifth phase, 38 for the sixth and 34 for the seventh and eighth phases.

Names of TMC MLAs like Sukra Munda (won the 2016 Assembly poll from Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri), and Banasri Maity (sitting MLA since 2011 from Contai North) who joined BJP recently could not find their name in the list.

Former TMC MP Dasrath Tirkey (won the 2014 Lok Sabha from Alipurduar) and Tamluk CPI MLA Ashok Dinda also failed to get the tickets.

Not the least, former TMC minister Shyamapada Mukherjee and Anupam Hazra who also joined the BJP could not get the ticket.

Hazra clarified through social media posts that he preferred to work for the BJP instead of contesting in the polls. But it is also a fact that a good number of TMC turncoats including Suvendu Adhikari, Rajib Banerjee, Rabindranath Bhattacharya got tickets recently and are aiming at steering the BJP close to the magic numbers.

The prominent figures who found their names in the list are the party’s vice president Mukul Roy who will be contesting from Krishnanagar North, Rahul Sinha (former state president contesting from Habra), Paban Singh (son of MP Arjun Singh contesting from Bhatpara), Sunil Singh (MP Arjun Singh’s cousin), MLA Shibhadra Dutta (Khardaha), Sikha Mitra (wife of late Soumen Mitra who was the president of the state Congress party), Sabyasachi Dutta (Bidhannagar), Samik Bhattacharya (Rajarhat-Gopalpur seat), MP Jagannath Sarkar (Shantipur), actress Parno Mitra (contesting from Baranagar), actor Rudranil Ghosh (Bhawanipur), Jitendra Tiwari (Pandabeshwar), Col. Diptanshu Choudhary (Durgapur East), fashion designer Agnimitra Paul (Asansol South), Baishali Dalmiya (Bally), footballer Kalyan Choubey (Manicktala) and Dr Anirban Ganguly (Bolpur).

BJP insiders claimed that Mukul Roy and many MPs were given tickets due to a lack of eligible candidates who can ensure their win for the party.

“This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for all the MPs and Mukul Roy to prove their political acumen in this poll. If they lose, then it will have a long impact on their political career. With Mukul’s deep penetration in the ruling camp because he was the founder member of the TMC, the BJP wants to utilise his ‘long association’ with Mamata Banerjee as no one knows better than him about the ‘booth level’ disadvantages and advantages of the Trinamool Congress in Bengal,” he said.

For several Months, Mukul was struggling in the state BJP to make his space due to differences with the old guards. Mukul’s differences with some big strong BJP leaders in Bengal including Rahul Sinha and Dilip Ghosh are an open secret.

However, despite Mukul’s elevation as the vice president in 2020 clearly shows that the BJP central leadership can go to any extent (even if they need to sideline old guards) as far as defeating Mamata is concerned.

The biggest surprise was Rahul Sinha who was given a ticket to contest from Habra in the North 24-Parganas district.

For the past 40 years, since the formation of the BJP, he has been with the saffron party, and apparently despite some lucrative political offers from others he remained a dedicated soldier for decades.

Last year, Sinha expressed displeasure after he was removed as a BJP national secretary to pave way for TMC turncoat Anupam Hazra.

Despite that, he decided to stay back in the party and he was rewarded with a ticket this time. Sinha has contested ten assembly and Lok Sabha polls across various seats in Bengal but never won.

Footballer Kalyan Choubey, who is contesting from Maniktala in Kolkata, said, “I am a footballer but this time I don’t agree with TMC’s ‘Khela Hobe’. They played enough. It’s time for development in Bengal and only BJP can ensure this.”

Many in the party feel that BJP’s central leadership decision to prefer turncoats over old guards to field in this poll is going to brew more trouble for the saffron brigade in future.

Soon after the candidate’s list which was announced on Thursday, disgruntled BJP old-timers staged protests in Harishchandrapur in Malda, Durgapur, Alipurduar and in North 24-Parganas. In Malda, party workers ransacked the BJP office and removed all the posters and banners of senior party leaders.

Similar incidents were also reported from Alipurduar, Durgapur and in North 24-Parganas where BJP workers burst in anger and demanded a replacement of candidates.

Expressing discontent over the list, BJP Yuva Morcha leader Sourav Sikdar (Tapan Sikdar’s relative) resigned from the party.

In a Facebook post, he wrote, “I am resigning from my all post from BJP. The letter will be sent in due course at the proper channel. Please don’t make drama that party suspended me. One thing I wanted to make clear is that I have not asked for a ticket but someone has to protest. We Bengalis are inspired by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee who taught us to protest when someone is doing wrong. Someone tried it for the last three years that I should leave the party and he did it. My late uncle Tapan Sikdar devoted his life to BJP. He always dreamed that the party would come to power but not at the cost of tears of his own Karyakartas.”

first published:March 18, 2021, 15:40 IST