Quite the most striking feature of Monday’s recast of the West Bengal unit of the BJP must be that Trinamul Congress activists who have switched over to the saffronite party in recent years have now been given key organisational posts.
The notable exception perhaps is Sovan Chatterjee, the former mayor of Kolkata and once an acolyte of Mamata Banerjee, who has missed the bus after being overlooked. It bears recall that he had left Trinamul over matters personal and , therefore, under a cloud.
It is fairly obvious that the BJP’s central leadership is eager to utilise the abilities of the turncoats to counter Trinamul in the 2021 Assembly elections. The new list of office-bearers of the Bharatiya Janata Party boasts three notable turncoats ~ Arjun Singh, Saumitra Khan, and Sabyasachi Dutta, the third a real estate syndicate leader in North 24-Parganas.
Also included are Dulal Bor, who had defected from the Congress, and Khagen Murmu, who had left the CPI-M for a rightist outfit. In real terms, the BJP is poised to utilise the services of those who once had starkly different political persuasions.
In the wake of the reconstitution of office-bearers, the BJP has underlined the fact that leaders who had joined the BJP from other parties had often complained that they were being neglected. It is fairly obvious that the party is now trying to dispel that impression.
The signal thus emitted must be that the new state committee is intent on conveying the message that “capable leaders from other parties would get prominence in the BJP as well”.
It would be presumptuous quite yet to aver that the saffronites will be able to undercut the dominant influence of the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal. Nonetheless, there is no mistaking the fact that the BJP is trying to formulate its strategy a year ahead of the Assembly election next summer.
Narendra Modi’s award of Rs 1000 crore to the state for post-cyclone reconstruction has effectively muffled the Trinamul’s cavil over the Centre’s neglect. The striking changes in the new team include the appointment of Agnimitra Paul as the leader of the women’s wing. Locket Chatterjee, a Trinamul turncoat who became a BJP MP from Hooghly in the last Lok Sabha elections, has been made a general secretary.
Another Trinamul defector and former SP of West Midnapore and once close to the Chief Minister, Bharati Ghosh, has been appointed as the BJP’s vice-president in West Bengal.
Yet another vice-president is Mafuja Khatun, who joined the BJP in 2017. It is pretty obvious that defectors have been rewarded with plum posts. Arjun Singh is now one of the 12 vice-presidents, Sabyasachi Dutta one of the ten secretaries, and Saumitra Khan is president of the Yuva Morcha.
If the composition of the West Bengal BJP is any indication, the new team consists of defectors from a cross-section of parties.