Bengal Bedlam: After big battle of 2021, now BJP and TMC facing internal friction

Interestingly, both parties are mocking each other about the internal squabbles. Babul Supriyo, former minister in the Narendra Modi government who recently switched to the TMC, said he left the BJP because of the 'dirty infighting'

Kamalika Sengupta January 18, 2022 17:56:59 IST
Bengal Bedlam: After big battle of 2021, now BJP and TMC facing internal friction

Some BJP leaders claim that there is disagreement between TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee. PTI

The big Bengal battle of 2021 is over. But conflicts remain, and this time they are internal. Instead of fighting each other, both the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are having to contend with skirmishes within.

It all started in the TMC with its national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee’s ‘Diamond Harbour model’ to combat COVID. He took the initiative of reducing the positivity rate in the area by imposing strict restrictions. This was at a time when the Bengal government had declared in court that it wanted the annual Gangasagar Mela, held around Makar Sankranti, to go on with pandemic precautions. The administration also wanted scheduled municipal corporation polls in parts of the state to not be delayed.

While most party leaders supported the Diamond Harbour model of Abhishek, who is the nephew of Mamata Banerjee and also the area’s Lok Sabha lawmaker, TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee criticised him, saying, “All India General Secretary cannot have a personal opinion; he is not my enemy but what is he saying?”

Trinamool general secretary Kunal Ghosh reacted, saying Kalyan’s comment was being monitored by the party disciplinary committee. Kalyan retorted that he only considered Mamata his leader.

Things reached such a pass that a section of TMC supporters started campaigning against Kalyan, putting up posters against him on social media as well as in his locality. Party MP Aparupa Poddar said he should resign from the post of Trinamool chief whip in the Lok Sabha. The party’s top leaders had to get involved, and secretary-general Partha Chatterjee warned both Kalyan and Kunal against squabbling in public.

But the fire was not doused. TMC MLA and former minister Madan Mitra took to Facebook to ask Chatterjee where aggrieved leaders should go to be heard. He too was cautioned.

Opposition leaders like BJP’s Amit Malviya claimed there was an all-out war between Mamata Banerjee and her nephew. Another section argued that this could be a way of trying to project Abhishek as a reformer and all the differences were for show.

BJP vice-president Dilip Ghosh said, “The power centre in the TMC is shifting, that is why people are confused. So earlier Narendra Modiji used to do Mann ki Baat. Now different leaders of TMC are doing Mann ki Baat."

Many party insiders though are of the opinion that Abhishek Banerjee is working on an excellent mission to reduce COVID positivity but there are a few who felt he was getting a lot of limelight after the TMC’s 2021 Assembly election victory and they tried to use Kalyan as a pawn against him.

Political commentator Sambit Pal said, “If you go by Mamata Banerjee’s old tactics, she allows some of her partymen to speak against each other or show open revolt. This is basically to understand the pulse of the party and maintain a balance of power. She has preferred to remain silent on the recent upheaval and what we see on the surface is also an old problem TMC had, the division between Yuva and Mul Trinamool (new and old guard of Trinamool). Earlier, Yuva TMC was headed by Abhishek Banerjee. It created a parallel organisation in the party. I think the current verbal revolt by some of the party leaders is not going to worsen as Abhishek Banerjee has consolidated his place in the party as the number 2."

Veteran Trinamool MP Saugata Roy said, “The party’s internal issues should not come out. If anybody has a problem, then that should be discussed inside the party."

Kunal Ghosh, considered close to Abhishek and one of the key characters in the fracas, told News18, “There is only healthy competition in TMC; everybody is trying their best."

The BJP is not untouched by this phenomenon. From posters to social media, an internal campaign is going on against party general secretary Amitava Chakraborty. A disgruntled group led by union minister of state Shantanu Thakur has been leaving party WhatsApp groups, holding separate meetings and giving out controversial statements.

“State BJP leaders are yet to realise that they are the principal Opposition party in Bengal even if they couldn’t come to power," said Sambit Pal. “On the other hand, central BJP leaders, for obvious reasons, are busy with Uttar Pradesh. The RSS has either lost control or interest in the ‘hybrid Bengal BJP’. Otherwise, it is difficult to believe how there can be an open revolt against the general secretary (organisation) who is a direct RSS recruit. This is unfortunate for the state which has suffered for decades due to lack of strong opposition."

Interestingly, both parties are mocking each other about the internal squabbles. Babul Supriyo, former minister in the Narendra Modi government who recently switched to the TMC, said he left the BJP because of the “dirty infighting".

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