In replacing Dilip Ghosh with Sukanta Majumdar as Bengal chief, the BJP has reached out to RSS and 'Bhadralok' in one move

Like many BJP office bearers, Dilip Ghosh too was an RSS man. However, his relationship with the RSS deteriorated over time

Sayantan Ghosh September 21, 2021 14:39:18 IST
In replacing Dilip Ghosh with Sukanta Majumdar as Bengal chief, the BJP has reached out to RSS and 'Bhadralok' in one move

BJP's new national vice-president Dilip Ghosh (right) with party's new state president Sukanta Majumdar (left) during a felicitation at BJP Party office in Kolkata. PTI

It was the Bharatiya Janata Party's defeat in the 2021 Bengal Assembly elections that sealed the fate of the then state unit chief Dilip Ghosh. Finally, the BJP has decided to relieve him of the post and has appointed Balurghat MP Sukanta Majumdar in his stead.

The last few months have not been great for the Bengal BJP. It has been riddled with infighting and factionalism ever since the party lost the bitterly-contested polls. Many turncoats, who had jumped ship before polls, have already left the BJP and returned to the Mamata Banerjee-led All India Trinamool Congress party

Recently, former Union minister of state and MP Babul Supriyo also left the BJP and joined TMC after his ministerial berth was taken away in a Cabinet reshuffle. To stop this ongoing exodus, it was time for the party to bring in some organisational changes. By removing Ghosh, the central leadership has done just that while also sending out strong messages to many stakeholders in a single stroke.

The decision came just weeks before the crucial Bhabanipur bypoll, where Banerjee's future is at stake as she must win the seat to continue as chief minister. She had lost from Nandigram against her former confidante and now Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari.

Ghosh, meanwhile, has been made a national vice-president of the BJP, a post earlier held by Mukul Roy who has now moved back to the TMC.

Prioritising RSS viewpoint in organisational matters

Like many BJP office-bearers, Ghosh too was a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) man. His relationship with the RSS, however, deteriorated over time. The RSS had played a key role in strengthening the ground for the BJP in Bengal over the last few years. Under Ghosh, the party chose to overlook the Sangh's opposition to inducting TMC cadres indiscriminately just before the polls. All would have been well and forgiven had this move worked in the polls.

But with several turncoats losing the polls, and many others embarrassingly pleading with the TMC for a ghar vapasi, it became difficult for the party to justify the pre-poll expansion, a strategy now blamed on Ghosh.

Majumdar, on the other hand, is also a long-time RSS man, with a doctorate in botany. By choosing Majumdar, the central leadership of the BJP has sent out the message that the views of the RSS will get priority when it comes to organisational decisions.

Resolving growing dissent among old guards

The rift between the old and new guard in Bengal BJP has been widening and the most contentious topic in this internal war was the induction of TMC members. Party loyalists believed that the BJP was trusting newcomers with important seats and organisational posts by neglecting those who had worked for the organisation from the start.

The party veterans not only played a key role in the development of the grassroots connection of the party but they also appeal to a cross-section of the Bengal electorate. The old guard was opposing the idea of taking TMC turncoats in the party from the start, but their dissent was ignored at Ghosh's behest.
By appointing Majumdar, BJP has tried to signal that the views of the old guard will be valued and they will be rewarded for their contributions. The message is apparently well received: soon after Majumdar's appointment, former Bengal BJP chief and governor of Tripura Tathagata Roy extended a warm welcome to him. Roy has been one of Ghosh's biggest critics within the party and has constantly pointed out his failure to keep the flock together.

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Defining the limits for Suvendu Adhikari and other TMC turncoats

By appointing Majumdar as Bengal BJP chief, the Bharatiya Janata Party has also circumscribed the ambition of Leader of Opposition in Bengal Assembly and former TMC minister Suvendu Adhikari. After defeating Trinamool supremo and Bengal chief minister from Nandigram, Adhikari was projecting himself as the undisputed leader of the Bengal BJP. However, the central leadership wanted to make it clear that when it comes to organisational posts, then the focus will be on the people or leaders who have proved their loyalty towards the ideology of the Sangh Parivar.

Majumdar is not only an RSS man but also had an affiliation with the ABVP when he was a student of the North Bengal University. He was with the ABVP when the ABVP had zero presence in Bengal. It is very clear now that whatever happens in the state, the party will never allow the TMC turncoats to run the organisation.

Urban voters could get more focus

There is no doubt that Ghosh was the key force behind the expansion of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bengal. However, he was never quite accepted within the urban population of Bengal. His lifestyle, language and temperament were never accepted by the elite bhadrolok. After this election, it has become very clear that this population has mostly voted for the TMC and outright rejected the BJP.

Traditionally, this population is liberal and left of centre when it comes to ideology. Now the BJP has realised that penetrating this population is very important.

With the appointment of Majumdar, who is a teacher by profession, the BJP believes that he can bring acceptance for the party within the urban parts of Bengal and most importantly in Kolkata. Several comments made by Ghosh such as suggesting Bengal CM to wear Bermuda shorts or threatening the TMC supporters were never approved by any section of the Bengalis.

Focus on north Bengal

Looking into the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bengal, it becomes clear that the party has performed the best in north Bengal. The central leadership of the BJP made Nisith Pramanik and John Barla both MPs from north Bengal, ministers in the Modi government in recognition of the fact that the party respects the mandate of north Bengal. Meanwhile, after the election, several BJP leaders including Barla voiced their opinion for a separate state for north Bengal. However, the state BJP leadership distanced themselves from the idea of dividing Bengal. Apparently, the BJP believes that Majumdar who is also from north Bengal will be the best person to deal with the situation.

The author is an independent journalist and former policy research fellow at Delhi Assembly Research Center who writes on policy and politics. Views are personal

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