New Delhi: Ever since 2014 when the BJP for the first time had bagged over 17% vote share in Bengal in the then concluded Lok Sabha polls, there has been a major churning within the Bengal unit of the BJP. The BJP’s Bengal unit in these seven years has seen three state presidents—Rahul Sinha (2009-2015), Dilip Ghosh (2015-2021) and Dr Sukanta Mazumdar (2021-present) and many leaders coming into the party fold and going. Some of the BJP leaders who had played key roles in the party’s affairs in the past years, have been sidelined.
Many new leaders who have joined the BJP in the last few years have made it to the top position of the present state of the party.
For example, Suvendu Adhikari who had joined the party just before the 2021 Assembly polls in Bengal has become one of the most important leaders of the BJP in Bengal. Similarly, Dr Sukanta Mazumdar, the present party president, also came to the BJP from the RSS before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Sunday Guardian takes a look at some of the prominent leaders of the Bengal unit of the BJP who have either left the party or have been feeling alienated in the party, since the last two years.
Bollywood singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo was one of the first BJP Members of Parliament from West Bengal. He had won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat from Bengal when the party virtually had no organisational structure in place in the state. He went on to win the same seat again for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Keeping in mind his achievement for the party from Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given him a Union Ministerial berth when he became a MP for the first time in 2014. He was made the MoS for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. He remained a minister for seven years, only to be dropped in the recent Cabinet reshuffle that happened in July this year.
Supriyo, who had a massive fan following among the youth for his star personality and his quirky songs against the Trinamool Congress, had become disgruntled after he was dropped from the ministerial position. He lashed out at the party and the Bengal unit of the BJP weeks after being removed as a minister, only later to join the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Sources within the BJP’s Bengal unit also say that Supriyo was also disgruntled after a lot of differences started to arise between him and the former state president, Dilip Ghosh following which, Supriyo joined the Trinamool Congress in the presence of TMC’s second-in command Abhishek Banerjee in Kolkata in September. However, Supriyo had lost the Tollygunge Assembly seat of Bengal in the West Bengal Assembly elections held in May this year.
Roopa Ganguly had joined the BJP in 2015, after the results of the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 were declared. She was one of the most prominent faces of Bengal BJP who was seen fighting against the TMC government every now and then.
Talks were also rife just before the 2016 Bengal Assembly polls that Ganguly could possibly be made the chief ministerial face of the BJP to take on Mamata Banerjee. She however, unsuccessfully contested the 2016 Assembly polls of Bengal, but did not give up her fighting spree against the TMC government.
Earlier in 2017, Roopa Ganguly, in an interview to The Sunday Guardian, had narrated how she was brutally beaten up by the cops on the streets of Kolkata and kicked by police officials, following which she had to undergo prolonged treatment in a private hospital in Kolkata.
Ganguly led the Mahila Morcha wing of the BJP in Bengal for about three years, where she was seen present in every small incident that took place in Bengal. But in 2018, Ganguly was slowly seen to be sidelined by the party. Her post was given to her contemporary from the cinema world, Locket Chatterjee, and Ganguly was sent to Delhi, making her a Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal. Ganguly still continues to be in the BJP, but has virtually been in the background of BJP’s Bengal politics.
Actor-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee had joined the BJP in 2015 after quitting the TMC. She was a member of the State’s Women Commission till e she joined the BJP. After fighting shoulder to shoulder with the TMC in Bengal, Chatterjee was elevated to the post of Mahila Morcha president and then the state’s General Secretary. She had been one of the most prominent faces of the BJP in Bengal and had risen to prominence from her days when she was the Mahila Morcha President between 2017 and 2019.
Chatterjee had also contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 from the Hooghly constituency and had won. But since the last Assembly elections held earlier this year, Chatterjee feels alienated in the Bengal unit of the BJP.
Sources close to her say that she had fallen out with the former state president Dilip Ghosh and had been sidelined in the party. Chatterjee has also distanced herself from the state unit of the party and has said that since she has been appointed as the co-incharge of BJP Uttarakhand and she has been focusing on that state, due to the upcoming elections. Chatterjee is also not seen much in any of the BJP Bengal’s programmes despite being the state general secretary of the party.
Rahul Sinha remained the BJP president of Bengal between 2009 and 2015. It was during his presidency that the BJP increased its vote share in the Lok Sabha elections in the state for the first time.
This, despite the BJP having literally zero or little cadre base in the hinterlands of Bengal. Sinha had been very close to the central leaders of the BJP and had risen to prominence in Bengal since he had been associated with the BJP for a very long time in Bengal. Sinha has been with the party in the state since it evolved into the BJP from Jan Sangh in 1980.
Sinha was replaced by Dilip Ghosh in 2015 and he was moved to the centre, when he was appointed as the National Secretary of the BJP. However, Sinha was later dropped even from the national level. Sinha had raised strong objections to his dropping from the post and had even threatened to quit the party, but was placated by the central leadership.
Mukul Roy, once a close confidante of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, had quit the TMC to join the BJP in 2017, after differences started to grow between the two. Roy, after joining the BJP, had risen to become the national vice president of the party. He was popularly called by the BJP cadre as the Chanakya of Bengal politics. Roy is also believed to have led many defections in favour of the BJP between 2017 and 2021, where many leaders from his erstwhile TMC had made a beeline to join the BJP.
Roy had even contested the Bengal Assembly elections from the Krishnanagar North Assembly seat on a BJP ticket and won. However, he switched back to his former party, the TMC, just days after the election results for West Bengal Assembly were declared and the BJP lost the elections.
Sources close to Roy say that he was forced to make the decision to go back to TMC since his differences with the state unit had been growing and that he was feeling uncomfortable within the party.