Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Discontent over candidate selection puts question mark on BJP's prospects
The BJP's ambitious target of winning 23 Lok Sabha seats from West Bengal may prove to be an uphill task as discontent is brewing over ticket distribution after old-timers and homegrown leaders were overlooked in favour of turncoats and newcomers.
The BJP, which has announced candidates for 40 seats out of 42 in the state, has nominated 10 turncoats, who switched over from Congress, CPI(M) and TMC and has around 20 greenhorns.
Protests have erupted in various parts of the state over the issue with several leaders either resigning or becoming inactive during campaign. BJP state president Dilip Ghosh conceded there has been discontent over ticket distribution, but said everybody should abide by party's decision.
"Yes, there has been some discontent in the party but we all should abide by the party decision's. Somebody has aspiration for tickets but that doesn't mean that if you don't get tickets you will start protesting," Ghosh said. A senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named said, discontent might prove to be a problem for the party in polls.
"The party needs to understand one thing that we don't have very strong organisation unlike TMC at the grassroots level. For winning the seats we need to depend on cadres and leaders whom we have groomed for the years. Now if they are not happy with candidate selection will they campaign during polls," said the senior BJP leader.
The BJP leader's view was endorsed by Sanjit Mishra, Malda district president of the saffron party, who agreed that party cadres were unhappy over both the seats in Malda being alloted to turncoats ignoring homegrown leaders. "As a president, even I will admit the way the seats were allotted was somewhat unfair. The cadres are not happy but I am trying to pacify them," Mishra said.
His comments comes in the backdrop of party's vice president of Bengal unit, Raj Kamal Pathak, who has been a BJP leader for last three decades, tendering his resignation after denied a ticket.
Not just Pathak, there are several other top BJP leaders such as state secretary Ritesh Tiwari, state general secretaries Raju Banerjee and Biswapriya Roy Chowdhury and Minority Morcha chief Ali Hossain, who have been deprived ticket in order to pave way for newcomers and turncoats.
With BJP emerging as the main challenger to TMC in the last five years by outsmarting CPI(M) and Congress in Bengal and buoyed by its performance in rural polls, BJP president Amit Shah set out a target of winning more than 23 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
BJP presently has 2 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal. But, in view of protests in various parts of the state and discontent, the party is trying to pacify dissidents. Former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, once known to be close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, was given ticket against TMC candidate and actor Dipak Adhikary from Ghatal LS constituency. The BJP has fielded former Trinamool Congress MLA Arjun Singh from Barrackpur LS seat.
Singh, who had recently joined the saffron party, has been pitted against TMC's Dinesh Trivedi. In Coochbebar LS seat, the party has fielded former TMC youth leader Nishith Pramanik, while in Jadavpur, expelled TMC MP Anupam Hazra will contest against TMC's Mimi Chakraborty, an actor by profession.
Another former TMC MP Soumitra Khan, who joined the BJP in January, has been given ticket from Bishnupur (SC) LS seat. Former CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, who too had switched over to the BJP, will contest from Malda North seat whereas former TMC leader Sreerupa Mitra Chowdhury, who had contested elections on a TMC ticket from New Delhi in 2014, is the BJP candidate from the neighbouring Malda South seat. In Jangipur Lok Sabha seat, former CPI(M) leader Mafuza Khatun, who recently joined BJP, has been pitted against sitting Congress MP Abijit Mukherjee.
In Diamond Harbour LS seat, former Congress leader Nilanjan Roy, who has recently crossed over to the BJP has been fielded against TMC's Abhishek Banerjee.
Since the day of announcement of candidates, posters have come up in various parts of the state with BJP workers hitting the streets. BJP workers had staged protest in Cooch Behar, North 24 Parganas, Junglemahal, Baharampur, Diamond Harbour, Malda South and Malda North against party's decision to nominate TMC, Congress and CPI(M) leaders instead of local party leaders.
"Why was Nishit given ticket? Does our district unit lack good leaders to contest polls? This decision has not sent out a good message to the rank and file of the party," said a senior district BJP leader, adding TMC would "exploit ripples of discontent".
In Barasat, BJP workers have come out with posters appealing to masses not to vote for "outsider" BJP candidate.
Similar kind of posters have come up against BJP's general secretary Sayantan Basu, who is contesting polls from Basirhat. BJP leader Mukul Roy, once TMC's number two, defended party's decision on fielding turncoats. "Anybody who wants to fight against TMC misrule in Bengal is welcome," Roy told PTI.
The decision over candidate selection was based on a survey conducted by BJP both internally and by an external agency as candidates thought to be strong in a particular constituency were given ticket from another. BJP Mahila Morcha president Locket Chatterjee was expecting a ticket from Birbhum but the survey found that she was popular in Hoogly, so she was given ticket from Hoogly.
BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said BJP is a disciplined party and everybody will abide by party's decision.