BJP PLANS A PO­LIT­I­CAL EARTH­QUAKE FOR MA­MATA

The Sunday Guardian - - The Big Story - CON­TIN­UED FROM P1

and Congress MLAs and work­ers would fol­low in the foot­steps of their lead­ers.

IM­POR­TANCE OF MUKUL ROY

Sources in Ben­gal BJP claim that Mukul Roy is join­ing the BJP soon—in fact around 23 Oc­to­ber. When asked about this over tele­phone, Roy re­fused to con­firm the in­for­ma­tion, but added that he had “al­ready said that the BJP was not a com­mu­nal party”. He said that he was fo­cus­ing on chalk­ing out his “future road map” and con­sol­i­dat­ing his pres­ence in the 77,000-plus poll booths in the state. He men­tioned in the pass­ing that he was in touch with Su­vendu Ad­hikari, but did not clar­ify his state­ment.

Mukul Roy’s en­try to the BJP can be a game changer for the party in Ben­gal. A poll strate­gist par ex­cel­lence, he is known for his or­gan­i­sa­tional skills. He is con­sid­ered as one of the men who built the Tri­namool Congress. Sources say that Roy has “con­tacts” in a ma­jor­ity of the state’s 77,000-plus booths, which will help en­hance BJP’s elec­toral prospects at the grass­roots. Cur­rently, the BJP has a pres­ence in only around 3,700-odd booths. Al­though BJP’s pop­u­lar­ity is on an up­swing in many parts of Ben­gal, to the ex­tent that it is re­plac­ing the CPM and Congress as the prin­ci­pal op­po­si­tion, the party is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to con­vert its pop­u­lar­ity into votes. It is here that Mukul Roy’s ad­mis­sion is vi­tal for the party, for he is known for his booth-man­age­ment and vote con­ver­sion skills.

Sources give the ex­am­ple of Tri­namool Congress’ rise to power to ex­plain the im­por­tance of Mukul Roy in Ben­gal pol­i­tics. He is one of the founders and ar­chi­tects of the Tri­namool. In fact, in 1998, it was in his name that the Tri­namool Congress was reg­is­tered. He was once the most im­por­tant leader in the Tri­namool af­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, apart from be­ing a Min­is­ter of State in the Man­mo­han Singh gov­ern­ment, when he held the ad­di­tional charge of Rail­ways. In Ben­gal, the Tri­namool was cer­tain of win­ning the 2006 As­sem­bly elec­tions, but was un­able to con­vert its pop­u­lar­ity into votes and lost that elec­tion to the Left Front. Sources say that it was in Novem­ber 2006 that Roy was given charge of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Two years later, in 2008, the Tri­namool went on to win the pan­chayat elec­tions and the As­sem­bly elec­tions in 2011, when Ma­mata Ban­er­jee up­rooted the CPM-led Left Front to come to power. It is this heft that the BJP ex­pects Roy to bring to the party.

AR­EAS OF FO­CUS

If the BJP man­ages to bring these lead­ers to its fold, it in­tends to con­cen­trate on the dis­tricts of North and South 24 Par­ganas, the state’s two most pop­u­lous dis­tricts ad­join­ing Kolkata, with around 60 As­sem­bly and 10 Lok Sabha seats. This area, par­tic­u­larly the east­ern bank of the Bha­gi­rathi-Hooghly (Ganga) river is Mukul Roy’s strong­hold.

The other area of con­cen­tra­tion will be Jan­galma­hal, a forested stretch com­pris­ing parts of West Me­dinipur, Bankura and Pu­ru­lia dis­tricts. Jan­galma­hal was once in­fested with Maoists, and one of the big­gest suc­cesses of the Ma­mata Ban­er­jee gov­ern­ment has been bring­ing peace to the area. Sources say Mukul Roy knows Jan­galma­hal “like the palms of his hands”. It is here that get­ting Su­vendu Ad­hikari is also im­por­tant for the BJP, be­cause the Ad­hikari fam­ily—Su­vendu Ad­hikari’s fa­ther Sisir Ad­hikari is a for­mer min­is­ter in the Man­mo­han Singh gov­ern­ment—too has a good hold on Jan­galma­hal.

Men­tion also must be made of the ad­join­ing East Me­dinipur dis­trict, an Ad­hikari fam­ily fortress, where the BJP has started mak­ing mi­nor in­roads. Ear­lier this year, in the Kan­thi Dak­shin As­sem­bly by­elec­tion here, while the Tri­namool swept the seat with 95,369 votes, the BJP came sec­ond by win­ning 52,843 votes. The Left and the Congress lost their de­posits. In East Me­dinipur, the BJP has al­ready in­ducted for­mer CPM leader, Lak­sh­man Seth in its ranks.

The BJP also in­tends to con­cen­trate on north Ben­gal, where Congress still has con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence.

Sources say that a lot of how this plan un­folds will de­pend on the kind of re­cep­tion that Mukul Roy gets in the BJP—whether he is treated with re­spect or not. Some state BJP lead­ers are un­happy that the cen­tral lead­er­ship is talk­ing to Mukul Roy. Al­though sources are cat­e­gor­i­cal that Roy will not be the BJP’s chief min­is­te­rial face in Ben­gal, at least three or four lo­cal lead­ers who fancy them­selves as BJP’s chief min­is­te­rial can­di­date, are op­posed to his en­try. One of these lead­ers made a snide so­cial me­dia post about Mukul Roy be­ing a “Tro­jan horse”, but had to delete his com­ment af­ter be­ing rep­ri­manded by the party’s cen­tral lead­er­ship. But with the ma­jor­ity of BJP’s lead­ers in Ben­gal be­ing po­lit­i­cal lightweights and with the party’s cen­tral lead­er­ship keen to re­cast the state unit by in­duct­ing heavy­weights who mat­ter at the grass­roots, op­po­si­tion to Roy’s en­try is ir­rel­e­vant, say sources.

They also as­sert that there will be some ma­jor de­vel­op­ments around 10 Novem­ber, or there­abouts, when at least five se­nior BJP MPs or other lead­ers will be present in Kolkata to in­duct some im­por­tant per­sons. The names of these per­sons can­not be dis­closed.

WHY?

Mukul Roy, when asked by this news­pa­per about the rea­son be­hind his anger with the Tri­namool Congress, replied that he would ex­plain ev­ery­thing in his res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the Ra­jya Sabha. Sources claim that the pri­mary rea­son be­hind the rift be­tween Ma­mata Ban­er­jee and her sec­ond-in­com­mand is the rise of her nephew Ab­hishek Ban­er­jee, who is a 29-year-old mem­ber of the Lok Sabha. Small things have been build­ing up, with se­nior lead­ers in­clud­ing Mukul Roy get­ting side­lined. “There have been in­stances when the CM and her nephew were sit­ting on the dais, but some­one like Mukul Roy was made to sit in the au­di­ence. These things mat­ter,” claimed a source. Some are also wor­ried about the Ma­mata gov­ern­ment’s “mi­nor­ity ap­pease­ment pol­icy” and the pos­si­bil­ity of Hindu con­sol­i­da­tion against them. Such is the sit­u­a­tion that it is al­leged that many in­stances of com­mu­nal dis­tur­bances in the state are ac­tu­ally clashes be­tween the Hindu and Mus­lim cadre of the Tri­namool.

If the BJP man­ages to woo Congress MP Ad­hir Chow- dhury, it will be pri­mar­ily be­cause of his op­po­si­tion to So­nia Gandhi’s plan to ally with Ma­mata Ban­er­jee. Po­lit­i­cal cir­cles in West Ben­gal are rife with ru­mours that the Congress high com­mand is re­mov­ing Ad­hir Chowd­hury from the post of state PCC chief.

That BJP is in power at the Cen­tre and has a “na­tional out­look”, is of course the big­gest at­trac­tion for many of the dis­si­dents in Tri­namool, and there are many. “You need a na­tional party at the helm to bring back in­dus­try to the state. A re­gional party—even CPM is a re­gional party— can­not bring in­dus­try and that is an im­por­tant fac­tor for many,” say sources.

How­ever, sources ad­mit that the BJP is up against one of the most for­mi­da­ble politi­cians in the coun­try, who has com­plete con­trol of the grass­roots—Ma­mata Ban­er­jee. So it has a ma­jor fight on its hands in its at­tempt to counter her on her home-turf.

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