With party Mahila Morcha leader Juhi Chowdhury in jail for her alleged links to a child trafficking racket in Jalpaiguri, and police on the lookout for her father, a state leader — the West Bengal BJP is divided. While one section says Juhi is innocent, or at least gullible, others maintain the BJP should have been more “stringent” in its selection process.
But the father-daughter duo are hardly new to the party. In the early 2000s, Jalpaiguri presented a very different picture. The district was a Congress bastion, and the Left was to remain in power in the state for another decade. It was in this scenario that Juhi’s father Rabindra Narayan Chowdhury, who had been associated with the RSS for decades, joined the BJP.
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Gradually, the Congress lost ground in the district to the Trinamool Congress. In the meantime, Rabindra, a businessman with a thriving saw mill, persisted. “He was one of the first BJP leaders in north Bengal. He was a part of a generation of leaders who were influenced by the RSS and ideology of Hindutva. With the Left and Congress surviving on minority appeasement, he felt the BJP and its politics of nationalism was needed,” said a BJP leader in Jalpaiguri.
Rabindra went on to become district president and then state committee leader. By 2016, he had decided to pass on the baton to Juhi — one of his three daughters. Unlike her sisters, Juhi was already a BJP youth leader in the area. In 2016, she became general secretary in the BJP Mahila Morcha.
BJP leaders said Juhi became active in the party during state elections last year. “When the BJP didn’t do well in the district, though its vote percentage improved in some blocs, Juhi decided to try a different strategy. She attended a meeting where BJP MP Roopa Ganguly was also present. Roopa was upset because it had been leaked that she would be there. As a result, a number of people had turned up for autographs… Juhi had intervened at the time,” said a leader.
After the CID booked Juhi, Roopa initially described her as a “bachcha mein (young girl)” who she met in Siliguri during an event. She also said that as the head of BJP Mahila Morcha, while the party state committee had submitted a number of names, state president Dilip Ghosh and general secretary Pratap Banerjee had suggested Juhi’s name to her as “North Bengal needed representation”.
Before Juhi and her father were removed from their party posts, Rabindra went to meet Ghosh. A leader said: “After the meeting, it was clear that both father and daughter had become a liability. It wasn’t a question of their guilt but their perceived guilt… because TMC would used the child smuggling issue to drag BJP’s name through mud.”