I am within the family and will always remain in the family: Locket Chatterjee.

 

New Delhi: Senior BJP leader from Bengal, MP from Hooghly Lok Sabha and General Secretary of the Bengal unit of the BJP, often known as the “fighter didi” among her colleagues, Locket Chatterjee, who has otherwise been a strong face of the Bengal BJP till the 2021 Assembly polls, suddenly started to keep herself away from Bengal politics. Many said it was due to her growing differences with a certain section of the BJP leaders in Bengal, while some said she was trying to look the other way.

In an exclusive and candid conversation with The Sunday Guardian, Locket Chatterjee tried to dispel all such issues that had been making news into the mainstream media and on social media. Excerpts:

Q: In the May 2021 Assembly elections in Bengal, the BJP put its full might to win the state, but despite all its efforts, the BJP could not make it to power and performed much below its expectations. Since then, a lot of water has flown for the BJP in the state. Being a senior BJP leader and an MP from the state, where do you think the accountability lies within the party?

A: Bengal has witnessed a culture of political violence, first with the 34 years of Left rule and now the 10+ years of Trinamool Congress (TMC) rule where violence in the state has increased thrice that of the Left regime. Sailing through such violent political culture of Bengal, the BJP stood with its head strong and from just 2 MPs in 2014 and 3 MLAs in 2016, the party managed to get 18 MPs in 2019 and 77 MLAs in 2021. If you look at things from this perspective, the BJP is marching towards victory. So, the question of not doing well does not arise, and the notion of BJP losing big in Bengal is being deliberately created by TMC to create confusion among the people. Yes, it may be true that the people did not trust us completely this time, but I am certain in 2026, the BJP will form its own government in Bengal.

Q: You said the BJP’s performance was fairly good in 2021, but then post the election results, it somehow seems that the Bengal BJP unit is in deep slumber. Half the BJP workers have either left the party or have gone underground. Don’t you think somewhere the BJP is lacking the will power to stand up again and strengthen itself?

A: I don’t think this analysis is correct. Post the 2 May election results, the amount of post-poll violence Bengal witnessed is unfathomable. BJP workers were being hunted down by TMC goons from their own homes. More than 60 BJP workers were killed in post poll violence. This created an atmosphere of fear that restricted people from coming out and supporting the BJP openly. We are trying to convince our workers to come out for the party and trying to instill belief, faith and confidence among them. BJP is not in deep slumber; they are awake and we are all working together. You have seen how the party has raised the right voices over the horrific Rampurhat massacre.

Q: But then look at the party’s performance in the municipal elections; your vote share declined and BJP slipped to number 3, Left took the 2nd position. We have seen that half the BJP leaders, party MPs, including you, did not campaign for the party even in their own constituencies during this election.

A: This is definitely a cause of concern for the party and we are deliberating on this. But it is also true that the ruling party (TMC) deliberately made this space for the Left to breathe again in Bengal. This is to ensure that the Left vote does not shift to the BJP again, like it happened in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
It is wrong to say that half the leaders did not campaign. Every leader who was given the responsibility to campaign did it with commitment. I could not campaign, was in Uttarakhand during that time and the party had given the responsibility for that state.

Q: You have played an important role in the organisation both during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well as during the 2021 Assembly polls, but since the last few months, it is being noticed that you are trying to keep a distance from Bengal BJP and the Bengal BJP is also trying to keep you at a distance. Why so?

A: There is no distance either between me and the BJP, this is a creation of the media. I don’t take it as Bengal BJP or Central BJP. BJP is present in the entire country and it is a huge family, each state is a part of that family. Therefore, I am within the family and I will always remain in this family.
I was there with my people till July in my constituency (Hooghly) when post-poll violence was taking place. In August, I was given this huge and important responsibility of Uttarakhand by Naddaji and Amit Shahji. So, from September-October, I was literally camping there; therefore, I could not make it for any election campaign in Bengal during that time.

Q: But you have also expressed your displeasure over the fact that the Bengal BJP did not put your name in the list of star campaigners for the by-elections in Asansol and Ballygunge due to be held next week.

A: No, I did not say I was unhappy. The party decides whom to put in the star campaigners’ list and whom not to. The Bengal BJP decided not to include me in their star campaigners list and its okay, I have to accept it, it’s the party’s decision. I am a loyal soldier of the party and I follow the party’s command and this time, if they (Bengal BJP) thought I was not needed, I have to accept it.

Q: This seems like that some distance has been created between you and the Bengal BJP.

A: No, I don’t think so. I have been in this party since 2015 and I have seriously worked for the party with my heart and soul. I don’t feel any distant from my party.

Q: What is your impression about the new Bengal BJP President, Sukanta Mazumdar?

A: Sukanta is a very humble and nice human being; he is like a younger brother to me. Sometime, we do have discussions on certain issues and whenever he seeks any suggestions from me, I advise him. And I will keep doing it whenever required.

Q: There were several media reports about a growing rift between you and former state President Dilip Ghosh, which many say have led you to keep yourself busy outside Bengal. Can you help us clarify if all is well between you and Dilip Ghosh?

A: I came to the party in 2015 and around the same time, Dilip da was also appointed as the party president, we had started and shared the journey here almost together and therefore I do share a very cordial relationship with him.
I had learnt and worked under his tenure, I was appointed as the Mahila Morcha President under his leadership in 2017, before which I was the State secretary. So, the relationship with Dilip da will always remain unbroken.

Q: Former suspended BJP leader and state vice president Jayprakash Mazumdar meets you in an undisclosed location along with another suspended BJP leader Ritesh Tiwari and the very next day Mazumdar joins the TMC and says that Locket Chatterjee is also on the cusp on joining the TMC. What do we make from this? Is it true?

A: People can make things up and say what they want to. The media also picks it up and talks about it their way. It was an informal meeting and he leaked it to the media to create a buzz. I would like to say that such people are bad for the party and not only for the party, even for society they are very harmful people. They are untrustworthy; they can switch sides for their convenience and then leak information about private chats even with senior leaders of the party.

Q: Kailash Vijayvargiya, observer for Bengal, did not visit Bengal since 2 May; he has been virtually absent from Bengal politics, even then the Central BJP has not appointed a new observer. Does this not give a wrong message to the party karyakartas about BJP’s seriousness with Bengal?

A: The Central leadership of the BJP is very much serious about Bengal. You have seen how in Parliament Home Minister Amit Shahji talks about Bengal repeatedly. Bengal is being cited as an example of fascist government in Parliament by our top leaders. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modiji, Naddaji, Yogiji everyone is talking about Bengal. Bengal is on the BJP’s priority list. It is true that Kailash Vijayvargiya is still our observer and why he does not go to Bengal, I cannot say that.

Q: Going forward from here, how active are we going to see Locket Chatterjee in Bengal politics in the coming days?

A: I am always active. Whatever work is assigned to me, I always do it like a loyal soldier of the party. Whenever a work is assigned to me by the Bengal BJP or the Central BJP, I will do it. When we come to this party, we are taught that party is the last word and party discipline is the first thing.