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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Amid Bengal slide, Amit Shah’s tough luck message for BJP: End old whine for new battle

The Bengal BJP leaders needed to give up their pipedream of President's Rule in the state, as well as looking at the CBI to fight its political battles, Shah said.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
Updated: May 9, 2022 8:31:59 am
Amit Shah, Amit Shah Bengal visit, BJP Bengal, Babul Supriyo, Shatrughan Sinha, Political pulse, Indian expressUnion Home Minister Amit Shah in Kolkata. (Express photo by Shashi Ghosh/File)

Union Home Minister Amit Shah wrapped up his first visit to West Bengal after the 2021 Assembly election results, where the BJP’s hopes were badly dashed, with a tough reality check for the party’s floundering unit. The Bengal BJP leaders needed to give up their pipedream of President’s Rule in the state, as well as looking at the CBI to fight its political battles, Shah said.

The state BJP unit has been feeling somewhat orphaned by the central leadership in its fight against the aggressive Trinamool Congress. Shah’s blunt remarks did not just indicate that Delhi was done with a sympathetic ear, but also a realisation at the top that, as its electoral slide in Bengal accelerates, the BJP needs to go down to the grass-roots to lift itself up, rather than wait for a helping hand.

Shah made the remarks at a meeting with state BJP leaders, including MPs and MLAs. “The Trinamool Congress came back to power for a third straight term after receiving a huge mandate. It has been just a few months since it won the election. Now, an elected government cannot be overthrown by imposing Article 356. We cannot do such things… It is a political fight which needs to be fought politically with the help of our workers,” Shah is learnt to have said.

The BJP is given to frequent calls for President’s Rule in the state, amidst incidents of political violence in the state and a pliant Governor in Jagdeep Dhankhar in Raj Bhavan.

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Shah did not just discourage the repetitive calls for Article 356 but also for CBI investigation against TMC leaders. The message was that the BJP should play its part of the Opposition, taking the cases or attacks against it as things which will happen.

After its fantastic 2019 Lok Sabha poll performance in West Bengal with 18 seats, and the commendable Assembly results last year, where it and the TMC mopped up all the constituencies wiping out the Left and Congress, the BJP has been struggling to hold on to both leaders as well as public support.

It has not won a single election since the May 2021 results, despite measures such as bringing in young blood by appointing MP Sukanta Majumdar as state unit president. More than on the streets, the BJP has been in the courts filing petitions against the government, or knocking on Dhankhar’s doors.

Not to say that it has been entirely unsuccessful, with the High Court in August last year ordering a CBI inquiry into incidents of crime and murder in days after the poll results, on the BJP’s petition. The Bogtui incident in March, in which eight people were burnt alive in retaliation to the murder of a local TMC leader, putting the ruling party on the backfoot, was also a boost for the BJP.

The CBI is now investigating apart from the above case, a State Level Selection Test recruitment scam, an SSC recruitment scam, the murders of Congress councillor Tapan Kandu and an eyewitness in the case, and the rape and death of a minor in Nadia district.

However, for the central BJP, what has been an eyeopener is that all this is not turning into any poll gains. On April 16, for example, after the Bogtui horror, TMC candidate Shatrughan Sinha had won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 3 lakh votes, helping the TMC snatch the seat from the BJP. Former BJP-turned-TMC leader Babul Supriyo had won the Ballygunge Assembly bypoll by a huge margin, with the BJP candidate losing his deposit.

The thinking now is that without a strong organisational strength, the BJP cannot hope to defeat the TMC, a party that is firmly entrenched at all levels of the administration in its third straight term in power.

Ironically, the fact that there is no substitute for legwork is a lesson that its rivals usually take from the BJP’s electoral successes.

BJP Bengal spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “Amit Shah made it very clear that our political fight against the TMC government will continue and we will do it politically. For that we have to strengthen the organisation and create booth-level committees across the state. Our workers will be our strength and we will not give an inch of space to the TMC.”

TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said the BJP appears to have learnt its lesson. “There is a BJP of old-timers and a BJP of newcomers. The two factions are fighting among each other in the state. Amit Shah is making attempts to unite the party. The call for President’s Rule was always a jumla. If they wanted, they could have easily done it as their party is in power and their agent sits in Raj Bhavan. Why didn’t they do it? Because it is not possible to dethrone a political party from power like this. Good sense has finally prevailed.”

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