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All's not well with Bengal BJP. And these 2 issues are to blame

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

The Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party finds itself in a fix on two fronts.

One is the induction of former CPI(M) leader Lakshman Seth into the party, which seems to have widened the rift between BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha and state BJP president Dilip Ghosh.

The other issue is Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly's comment that the Hindu minority in Bangladesh is safe, and that the Sheikh Hasina government is making all efforts to ensure the community can live peacefully. On this issue, RSS state spokesperson Jishnu Bose is said to be miffed.

Both Sinha and Bose reportedly want to meet the party's top leadership in New Delhi to discuss their grievances.

Why Seth is a problem

Sinha said he did not want to comment on the issue of Seth joining the party, since he had already become a member, without any consultation with him.

"Let us see what happens in the future. It is not necessary to comment on all issues right now," Sinha said.

Seth was a CPI(M) strongman who once virtually ruled Tamluk, the district headquarters of East Midnapore, and courted infamy over his alleged involvement in the Nandigram violence of 2007. He was expelled from the CPI(M) in 2014, and had slipped into virtual anonymity.

After being expelled for alleged 'anti-party activities', Seth floated his own political outfit, the Bharat Nirman Party (BNP), in August that year. However, that did not lead him anywhere in particular.

Eyeing a return to the political mainstream after a two-year hiatus, Seth joined the BJP on 21 October, after having met Ghosh and voiced his willingness to join the saffron camp and fight the bypoll from the Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP is mulling merging the BNP into itself, and is waiting for the central leadership to take a call on this issue.

However, the BJP has not offered him a ticket from Tamluk. Instead, sources close to Ghosh said the party would use his influence to expand its footprint in East Midnapore.

In addition, the differences within the party over Seth's induction were brought into the open when the nominated Lok Sabha MP from the Anglo India community, BJP member and Bengali actor George Baker, said in a mocking tone: "Ours is a big family and there is room for everyone. All are welcome. Even if Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee or former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee want to join the BJP, they would be welcome."

Ganguly's problematic comments

Meanwhile, on 28 October, Bose, the RSS's state secretary expressed his displease at Ganguly's comments about the Hindu minority in Bangladesh.

This has been one of the RSS's pet issues in the state, and Bose said: "I think she does not have enough information about the living condition of Hindus in Bangaldesh in totality when she made the comment. Hindu minorities are subjected to attacks by fundamental religious groups. The ground reality is different from what she said. We had already apprised Ganguly about the present situation in Bangladesh."

TMC's reaction

The ruling Trinamool Congress has scoffed at the BJP's internal squabbles, with senior leaders saying this is the very reason why the party has not been able to make a serious dent in Bengal. They also blamed the BJP for constantly trying to fan communal passions in the state.

A senior minister in the Bengal government said: "It is good for Seth to join a national party, as he has completely lost his political power. But we are ready to counter Seth is all possible ways."

According to the minister, the TMC will launch a strong attack on BJP if it spreads communal tension in the state. He quoted a tweet recently posted by Mamata Banerjee: "Communal terrorism is the worst form of terrorism."

Analysts' opinion

Political analysts are of the opinion that the internal divide within the Bengal BJP will certainly help the TMC garner more votes in the forthcoming bypoll. They are also unsure just how much impact Seth will have on the BJP.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 29 October 2016, 8:00 IST