Sitting in his office at the state BJP headquarters in central Kolkata, Sukanta Majumdar has his eyes fixed on a television screen showing the latest updates on the arrest of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Anubrata Mondal in connection with the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) probe into cattle smuggling. The BJP, which has seen its footprint shrink since its loss in the Assembly polls last year, has received a boost since the arrest of former state minister Partha Chatterjee and now Mondal.
Majumdar, the MP from Balurghat, spoke to The Indian Express on a range of issues, including the corruption allegations against TMC leaders, why he believes the Mamata Banerjee-led administration won’t be able to complete its full term, and the appointment of Sunil Bansal as state BJP in-charge.
The CBI and the ED (Enforcement Directorate) are conducting separate investigations into the cattle smuggling case and SSC (School Service Commission) recruitment scam. We have to keep in mind that the probe in the SSC recruitment scam is being held following a Calcutta High Court order. People in West Bengal have never before seen the recovery of such a huge amount of cash (from the apartments of Partha Chatterjee’s close aide Arpita Mukherjee). Now, Anubrata Mondal has been arrested in an old case. The CBI sent numerous summons to him for questioning into the matter but he always evaded them. The question here is not whether the BJP will benefit from these. The question is whether the people of Bengal benefit from this. The acts of such TMC leaders have brought shame to the state. It is time that people’s respect is restored and this corrupt government is ousted.
How is the BJP planning to gain political mileage from these issues?
We highlighted this (the alleged corruption of TMC leaders) before the 2021 Assembly polls. But, unfortunately, the people voted in favour of the TMC. The people believed that TMC leaders were honest. However, after these investigations, people are beginning to understand the mistake they made. They are now calling these leaders ‘thieves’. As the main Opposition party, we will definitely organise protest movements. But the common people, not holding any party flag or banner, are asking questions to these leaders now. They are throwing shoes at them. The people of West Bengal have finally woken up.
The people had huge expectations from the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls. Somehow, we could not live up to their expectations. After May 2 (when the election results were declared last year), widespread violence took place against BJP workers and supporters. The court also accepted that and ordered a CBI inquiry into it. This, coupled with a demoralised rank and file, were the reasons why we could not perform well in elections after the Assembly polls. As we could not form the government in the state, a section of our workers were disappointed and became inactive. This is another reason why the ruling party won elections one after another.
There has been an erosion in whatever organisation set-up the party had at the grassroots level after the Assembly poll defeat. What needs to be done to strengthen the organisation?
The BJP has an organisational structure. This eroded after Assembly polls. Today, our primary aim is to strengthen that structure. From booth and mandal levels to district and state levels, it is our duty to fill every post with able and active workers and leaders. They should be brought within this structure. This will ensure the presence of the BJP rank and file from the grassroots to the state level. If we have to utilise the present issues to the fullest, then we need to have a strong organisational base.
Recently, Sunil Bansal was appointed the central leader in charge of West Bengal. He was the general secretary (organisation) in Uttar Pradesh and changed the party’s fortunes there. How will the West Bengal BJP benefit from his appointment?
It comes as a strong impetus to Bengal BJP. He is credited to have changed the course of BJP’s politics in Uttar Pradesh. The state unit will immensely benefit from his appointment. Firstly, he previously served as general secretary (organisation), which means he understands the party organisation and how it functions. This will benefit our organisation to a great extent. Secondly, he is an experienced party leader. His experience will definitely help us prepare strategies against the ruling party here.
More than Rs 50 crore cash was recovered from the apartments of Partha Chatterjee’s close aide. Has the BJP deposited that money inside their apartments? If that was the case then the CCTVs would have shown we placed the money there. We did not put it there. Then, who did? The TMC thinks they will loot people’s money and everyone will keep quiet about it. It is like you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has categorically said there will be zero tolerance when it comes to corruption. We don’t believe in political understanding. We want to know how these leaders have increased their wealth after becoming ministers or holding important party posts. Coming to the question, the BJP does not run the central agencies. They are independent. They are conducting investigations. We have no comment on the investigative process.
The TMC has also alleged the central agencies don’t act against BJP leaders such as Suvendu Adhikari even though he was accused in the Narada case. Your comments?
When Mukul Roy was in the BJP (Roy has now returned to the TMC), he received summons from the CBI and also cooperated with them. If the CBI feels the need to summon our leaders, then they will do it. Our leaders will not run away like the TMC leaders. They will face questioning and cooperate with the central agencies. This allegation is baseless as you must have seen that bulldozer was used to demolish the house of a BJP worker in Uttar Pradesh.
Recently, Suvendu Adhikari claimed that the TMC government will cease to exist by December this year and simultaneous state Assembly and Lok Sabha polls will be held in 2024. What is your take on this?
As political leaders, we always have to conduct analyses of the existing situation and comment on it. Today, the TMC is in crisis. Partha Chatterjee, who was considered second-in-command in the TMC before the arrival of Abhishek Banerjee, has been arrested and sent to jail. Their strongman and heavyweight leader Anubrata Mondal is in CBI custody. Several others are under the scanner of central agencies in connection with various cases. The Calcutta High Court has asked the ED to investigate how the wealth of 19 TMC leaders increased over the years. We have a strong belief that once the ED conducts its investigation, all these leaders will be behind bars. Naturally, if that happens, then there will be a need to hold elections much earlier than scheduled. So there is definitely a chance of the state Assembly polls happening earlier than scheduled.
I don’t think this government will be able to complete its full term. But let me make it very clear that the BJP will not try to topple the government by force. We do not believe in capturing power. We will do it in a democratic manner with the help of the people of West Bengal.
Before the Assembly polls, several TMC leaders joined the BJP. Then most of them left after the election. Will the BJP again open its doors to TMC leaders?
We will not keep our party’s door shut. We will welcome leaders from other parties in the future. But, this time, we will follow a selection process where leaders with corruption charges against them will not be allowed to join the party. Those who come to the party will have to accept the present leadership of the BJP and work under them. Those who are at the forefront of the BJP will remain in their respective posts. The new leaders will have to work under their leadership and abide by their decisions.
There has been infighting in the BJP since you become the state president. How have you managed to handle the situation?
Those who work for the party do it with passion. They are very passionate about everything concerning the party. It is not possible to give everyone party posts. Therefore, there was some disappointment among those leaders and it resulted in their emotional outbursts. At present, it is much less and in the days to come there will be no discontentment in the party.
Many compare you to your predecessor and say that unlike him you are more reserved and of low decibel. What do you have to say to this?
It is a matter of perspective. Every leader has his signature style and move. A party leader becomes a leader because of his certain traits. Every leader is different in their style of functioning.
This time we have full confidence that we will cross 25 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal (a total of 42 parliamentary constituencies). We have given the slogan ‘Iss baar 25 paar (this time, we will cross 25)’. But given the present political situation in the state, I will not be surprised if we cross 35.