In a major change of guard, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday appointed its Balurghat parliamentarian Sukanta Majumdar as the party’s West Bengal president, replacing Dilip Ghosh.
The change happened 15 months ahead of the expiry of Ghosh’s term as state BJP chief and 10 days before the assembly bypolls in the state, including in the crucial Bhabanipur constituency where West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee faces BJP’s Priyanka Tibrewal.
The 41-year-old has his task cut out as the party still licks its wounds from the loss in the state Assembly elections and also the defections and in-fighting.
Who is Sukanta Majumdar?
A PhD in botany, Majumdar is a first-time parliamentarian from the Balurghat constituency in South Dinajpur district in West Bengal. He defeated TMC MP Arpita Ghosh with a margin of 33,293 votes.
While many may be surprised at his elevation in the party, Majumdar has strong links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP, till he joined the Bengal BJP in 2014.
His mentor Debi Das Chaudhuri was a high school teacher and president of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) from 1967 to 1980 in Balurghat in undivided Dinajpur district (later it was separated into South and North Dinajpur). The Bharatiya Jan Sangh was the political arm of the RSS.
In the 2019 General Elections, he dislodged Trinamool Congress’s Arpita Ghosh and won the Balurghat Lok Sabha constituency.
Seeing his close links to the RSS and his ties to the people at the grassroots level, he was recently appointed overall in-charge of the seats of Samserganj and Jangipur, which are also to go to the polls on 30 September, the same day as Bhabanipur.
Majumdar’s appointment is also significant as this is the first time the state BJP is getting a president from north Bengal, a region where the party performed much better than in other parts of Bengal.
With Leader of the Opposition in Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, hailing from south Bengal and Majumdar from north, the saffron camp seems to be making efforts to reinvigorate the organisation in the state after the assembly poll debacle.
In his first reaction after his elevation, he said that his priority would be strengthening the party in the state.
“I shall work towards further strengthening the sturdy foundation of our party created by Dilipda. We need to strengthen the BJP for the betterment of Bengal and Bengalis,” the MP said.
He also vowed to protect the state from Mamata Banerjee’s “Talibani rule”.
They’ve given such a huge responsibility to a small worker like me. Thankful to party chief JP Nadda, PM & others. BJP had fought earlier to save WB & stop its Talibanisation, we’ll do so in future too. We’ll protect it from Talibani rule of Mamata Banerjee: Dr Sukanta Majumdar pic.twitter.com/eWEef9f32F
— ANI (@ANI) September 20, 2021
BJP’s Bengal state
Under the leadership of Dilip Ghosh, the BJP won 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state during the 2019 general elections. Buoyed by this success, the BJP eyed the 2021 Assembly elections and did everything in their power to wrest control of the state.
However, TMC sprung a surprise by decisively winning the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election by bagging 213 seats whereas BJP could win in only 77 constituencies.
Following the results, the party began to see a string of defections and in-fighting also broke out.
Four BJP MLAs and an MP have switched over to the TMC since the declaration of assembly election results on 2 May.
In June, Mukul Roy, the former lieutenant of Mamata Banerjee, rejoined the TMC after he had left in 2017 to join the BJP.
Welcoming Mukul Roy to the party, Mamata Banerjee said, “He has returned to our family. We welcome him. He will play an important role in the party.”
While joining his parent party, Mukul Roy had said, “I could not and cannot be in BJP, hence I came back. In the present circumstances in Bengal, no one will stay in BJP.”
According to insiders, Mukul was said to be uncomfortable within the Bengal BJP. He apparently did not gel well with Dilip Ghosh even though the central BJP leadership kept him in good stead.
After a brief lull, Tanmoy Ghosh who won in Bishnupur on a BJP ticket switched allegiance to TMC on August 30. Biswajit Das and Soumen Roy, the sitting BJP legislators from Bagda and Kaliaganj respectively followed suit.
Majumdar’s elevation also comes three days after former Union Minister Babul Supriyo joined the TMC. The singer-turned-politican blamed Dilip Ghosh for BJP’s rout in the elections as he said the latter’s “comments” during the poll campaigns were “incongruous with the ethos of Bengalis.”
In recent times, in-fighting has also increased in the BJP. Ghosh was under attack for giving TMC turncoats prominence in the election in ticket distribution and poll management.
In July, the in-fighting came to the fore when Ghosh complained about party MPs Babul Supriyo and Saumitra Khan.
According to The Print, Ghosh met Nadda at his residence in New Delhi complained about how Supriyo and Khan, who is also the state Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president, made “objectionable” remarks on social media after former was dropped from the Union council of ministers and the latter didn’t get a ministerial berth.
Will he be able to dig BJP out of the hole it has dug for itself in the state? Time will determine that.
With inputs from agenciesInternet Explorer Channel Network