THE problems within the West Bengal BJP, as it tackles another electoral loss, have now seeped into its WhatsApp groups. In a very public exit, nine MLAs have left the groups over the past few days, over disagreement with the new state committee formed by the party.
The dissent comes less than a month before West Bengal heads for another round of elections. Leaders admit that as the committee shortlists candidates for the January 22 civic polls, the differences are set to grow worse. On December 27, BJP national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh, the party’s in-charge of Bengal, Amit Malviya and state president Sukanta Majumdar, held a meeting with national vice-president Dilip Ghosh, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari and others over the new state committee.
Since the Assembly elections in April-May when it finished second to the Trinamool Congress – way behind what it had been trumpeting – the BJP has been struggling to hold on in the state. Several senior leaders have quit, others feel sidelined. Meanwhile, the party that got 38% votes in the state elections tumbled to 9% in the recent Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) election. While the TMC was expected to retain its hold over the KMC, the results showed a slide of 20% in the votes the BJP had procured in the same area in the Assembly elections.
While the BJP’s tally of three wards was one more than the Left Front’s, the latter’s vote share was 3% higher. Besides, apart from the two wards it won, the Left came second in 65 wards, 17 more than the BJP.
The new state committee was announced by the BJP a day after the KMC results – and it ran straight into controversy as new leaders were picked at the cost of established leaders and MLAs for the 32-member panel.
On December 25, five MLAs – Mukutmoni Adhikari, Subrata Thakur, Ambica Roy, Asok Kirtania and Asim Sarkar – left several party WhatsApp groups in protest. Most of them belong to the Matua community, which has been assiduously courted by the party.
A day later, four MLAs from Bankura district – Amarnath Sakha, Dibakar Ghorami, Niladri Sekhar Dana and Nirmal Dhara – left.
None of the nine MLAs had found a place in the new committee.
While some of these MLAs now say they left the groups “by mistake”, most don’t want to talk about the move. One of them told The Indian Express: “There are some things which need to be discussed within the party. But all I can say is that the party is ignoring the contribution of those who helped it gain ground in Bengal.”
Asim Sarkar said their leaving the WhatsApp groups was a “completely an internal matter”. “WhatsApp groups are personal spaces of an individual. There must be some secrecy regarding such groups. I am surprised to see that personal interactions in such groups are being made public.”
Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar denied a revolt in the party. “It is being created by a section of the media. We are all united and everyone will work for the party,” he said. Majumdar incidentally took over from Dilip Ghosh in September, after Ghosh came under increasing criticism for both the BJP’s Assembly poll loss and the high-profile exits that followed (including of Mukul Roy, who went back to Mamata Banerjee’s inner circle).
TMC general secretary Kunal Ghosh said the BJP had ill-treated its leaders who had worked day and night to help the party grow. “It is natural that some of its leaders will protest after seeing that many have been denied positions in the state committee. Plus there is no alternative to the TMC at the present. The BJP lost the KMC election and it will lose civic body polls too.”