New Bengal BJP chief Dr Sukanta Mazumdar says he will work to strengthen the party in all the districts.


New Delhi: Dr Sukanta Mazumdar, BJP Member of Parliament from Balurghat, West Bengal, was appointed as the state president of Bengal BJP on 20 September this year. The appointment came less than four months after the BJP failed to win the May Assembly elections.

The 41-year-old first time MP Mazumdar has done PhD in Botany. He has been handed over the party’s command at a time when the party is fighting factionalism and party cadre is shrinking due to multiple reasons. The Sunday Guardian spoke to Dr Mazumdar in an exclusive conversation on his plans to re-energise his cadre. Edited excerpts:

Q: It has been a little over two months since you have taken over as the president of the Bengal unit of the BJP, after the party lost the Assembly elections last year. What are the primary challenges that you have identified?

A: Yes, we have lost this election (Assembly elections 2021), but the party’s seat share has jumped from 3 to 77, which I think is not bad. The Bengal BJP unit, overall, is in a considerable good shape, but in some areas of some districts, the organisational structure of the party is still weak. I will work towards strengthening the party in all the districts of Bengal.

Apart from this, one of the major challenges I am facing is the violence being unleashed by the TMC on our BJP karyakartas. You see, after the election results were declared, TMC goons, with the help of their leaders and the government machinery, unleashed widespread violence on BJP workers and due to this, our workers are suffering from trauma and fear. As a result of this, all of them have gone quiet. So, this is the most important challenge for me, to bring out my cadre from that fear and energize them and the party again. In no civilised world or in any civilised political system one has seen this kind of violence; it is a really sad and a new kind of challenge for us and not only for us, but also for democracy in India.

Q: Are you going to work on the roadmap assigned by your predecessors to strengthen the party in the state or have something new in mind?

A: Our party is a regimented party, and no single person can change things abruptly in our party. Dilipda (Dilip Ghosh) worked really hard and not only him, even our earlier presidents Rahul Sinha, Tathagata Roy and all the others from Haripada Bharati to Dilipda, did their level best. As far as my style or my tenure is concerned, I will follow the basic rules of the BJP. We believe in the organisation and we are an organisation-based party. I will work towards strengthening the organisational structure of my party in the state to ensure that BJP becomes the ruling party in Bengal.

Q: Post the Assembly election results, allegations have been levelled against the BJP state as well as Central leaders of abdicating their responsibility of standing with their workers when they were facing the brunt of violence in Bengal. This has disheartened your karyakartas and many have distanced themselves from your party. How would you address this problem?

A: The events that followed after the May 7 election results, we were all surprised; it was something which was never seen before. Such widespread violence in all parts of Bengal against our BJP workers, just because they lost the elections, was something unseen and unheard of. This shocked many of our leaders and we could not perform our duty. I have apologised to each and every karyakarta for failing to be by their side at the time of need when I took over as the president. If need be, I will go to all the houses of my karyakartas and apologise with folded hands for letting them down.

Having said this, I would like to add that now our entire party, along with our state and central leaders, are ready to fight for them (BJP workers) and we will stand beside our workers to fight the violent and oppressive TMC and bring back the golden days of Bengal.

Q: The slogan of the West Bengal BJP was “Abki baar 200 paar”. However, the party could not cross 100 seats. Has the party done introspection on why it failed?

A: Introspection and discussions are part of any party’s course. After every election as a political party, it is imperative on us to sit and see what went wrong for the party. But what discussions have taken place and details of these meetings are internal matters of the party and cannot be shared with the media. Our party is analysing through its different machinery; we are taking the feedback not only from the state BJP, but also from the Central BJP. We will get to the roots of the reasons behind our loss and correct our path and be ready for the next election.

Q: Do you think inducting a plethora of TMC leaders into the BJP just before the elections was one of the reasons for the BJP’s poor performance?

A: I cannot answer this question right now. But what I can say is that most of our karyakartas and workers feel that inducting a large number of TMC leaders created a negative image of the BJP in Bengal.

Q: At least five party MLAs, one MP (Babul Supriyo) have left the party in recent times. Are you worried about these developments? Are they a sign of some larger issues within the party?

A: We are not worried about this side switching; MLAs may come and go but if our workers and karyakartas are with us and they are willing to fight the battle with us, then we can make several MPs and MLAs. Our workers are our assets. But we have been requesting all our MLAs to stay with us because they contested and won on the BJP symbol and morally, they should be part of the BJP and let me tell you, most of them are with us ideologically.

There is no larger issue within the party, some of those who have left have had compulsions since some of them were associated with some businesses that were shut down by the present government; otherwise, they would have been with the BJP.

Q: Factionalism within the BJP is often a talked about topic in Bengal. There are reports of widespread factionalism right from the state level to the district and booth level of the party. As the new president, how will manage this?

A: I feel that factionalism is an integral part of politics, even when India was fighting for freedom there were two factions within the Congress and between two great men—Gandhiji and Netaji. So, factionalism is an inherent character of politics and political parties. But our organisational structure is very strong and we want to make it much stronger. Anybody who acts against the organisational principles and discipline, will be answerable and will be punished for his activities.

Q: Municipal elections are coming in Bengal. How is the party preparing itself for the polls? What would be your strategy this time?

A: We have met the Honourable Governor on Tuesday and submitted a prayer before him to depute central forces for municipal polls in Bengal. On Monday, we submitted our prayer before the State Election Commission for deployment of central forces for the Kolkata corporation polls, because we feel that without the involvement of the central forces, it is almost impossible to hold free and fair elections in Bengal. especially for the opposition parties. We were fighting in court as well as we were ready to fight in the field.

We are the only party you must have seen that we have declared the list of all 144 candidates together for the Kolkata corporation elections. We are ready to fight and we are the only party which is able to fight TMC. There is no opposition other than the BJP in Bengal and the BJP is the place for all those people who do not believe in the policies of TMC and the ideology of the TMC.

Q: The BJP, for the first time, has fielded 19 Muslim candidates for the Kolkata Municipal corporation election. Has the BJP realised that without taking the Muslims together in Bengal, it will not be possible for the party to win?

A: This is not the case, even during the last election, we had Muslim candidates; I may not be able to recall the exact numbers though now. But we do not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. We only believe in the people and Modiji’s mantra of “Sab ka saath, Sab ka vikas”.

The problem is that Muslims in this country have always been considered as vote banks and not as citizens and that is why different political parties from time to time have been appeasing them and not uplifting them. We think, believe and work for upliftment of all citizens of Bengal.

Q: The CBI and the ED were seen as proactive in Bengal before the elections, but now they have gone into a radio silence mode. Permission seeking prosecution of former and current TMC MPs, who are allegedly involved in scams, are pending for permission with the office of the Lok Sabha speaker for years now. Similarly, cases like Sarada and Narada scams, too, are being investigated by agencies for years without any result. Is this not an indication of the “understanding” between the BJP and TMC leadership?

A: This is the dilemma of politics, if the CBI or ED would have taken action against the TMC leaders who are involved in corruption, they would say that just before elections, the BJP is doing politics. If now the CBI or ED takes action against these corrupt leaders of the TMC, they will now say that since BJP has lost the elections, they are playing vindictive politics. You have to understand that the CBI and ED are independent organisations and have nothing to do with BJP or any political party. Most of the inquiries that are going on are monitored by the court. The Sarada and Narada probes were ordered by the Calcutta High Court and are reported to and monitored by the court. The BJP cannot do anything in this and these agencies are doing their job independently. But we also believe that the CBI and ED will file their chargesheet soon and those who are involved in corruption and illegal activities will be punished. We are hopeful that justice to the people of Bengal will be done.

Q: Mamata Banerjee is working towards establishing herself as a national leader with the ambitions of Prime Minister. Do you believe she can assume a national leadership, replacing the Congress, something which she is working on?

A: Mamata Banerjee has become ambitious and wants to become the PM and we have nothing to do with that. She has a long political career and, therefore, she has the right to do so, and we don’t have any objection to that. But we will speak to the people of this whole country about what has been happening in Bengal for the last 10 years and especially about the violence that was unleashed by the TMC goons. And I am sorry to say that these TMC goons who unleashed violence on our BJP workers belonged to a particular religious community and attacked the BJP workers since most of them were Hindus. If Mamata Banerjee becomes the PM of the country, this may happen to the rest of India also and we will let the people judge. But we feel that till now, our respected PM Narendra Modi has no competition and no competitor and it is my personal view that Mamata Banerjee is not competent to defeat Narendra Modi.

Q: I have spoken to a few BJP MPs, some of them say that there is some sort of understanding between the TMC leadership and the BJP leadership at the national level to finish the Congress. How far is this true?

A: There is no question of any understanding with the TMC. We don’t need Mamata Banerjee to finish Congress, Rahul Gandhi is equipped enough to destroy the Congress. We have full faith in Rahul Gandhi that he will be able to finish Congress very quickly. Mamata Banerjee’s Prime Minister ambition is making her run from one state to another to hire some tired and retired politicians, which will have no impact on the BJP.

Moreover, the Trinamool Congress is a regional party with no presence anywhere and let me tell you the idea of “bohiragato” (outsiders) coined by Mamata Banerjee will come to haunt her when she goes to campaign in states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Manipur, Assam, etc.