A Bit­ter Af­ter­taste

Af­ter a spate of in­duc­tions of TMC lead­ers with a du­bi­ous past, the BJP is forced to re­think

India Today - - STATES - By Romita Datta

It was July 15. BJP leader Mukul Roy was sched­uled to hand over party flags to a hand­ful of Tri­namool Congress (TMC) coun­cil­lors dur­ing an in­duc­tion sched­uled at the BJP’s new of­fice at Hast­ings House, Kolkata, when the cen­tral lead­er­ship abruptly put a stop to the event. The turn­coat coun­cil­lors were told to leave and Roy was sent a clear mes­sage that any and ev­ery TMC leader will­ing to join the BJP was not wel­come. Roy had in­ten­si­fied ef­forts to woo TMC lead­ers fol­low­ing the BJP’s im­pres­sive 18-seat haul in the Lok Sabha elec­tion in Bengal. How­ever, his fo­cus was on numbers, and the party lead­er­ship was un­com­fort­able with the du­bi­ous back­grounds of sev­eral lead­ers he was try­ing to bring on board. They in­cluded TMC lead­ers un­der

the lens in the Saradha fi­nan­cial scam and those who had crim­i­nal back­grounds or openly prop­a­gated vi­o­lence. What also an­noyed the lead­er­ship were com­plaints that some TMC re­cruits were throw­ing their weight around in the party and giv­ing rise to bad blood. The Lok Sabha elec­tion saw the BJP open its doors to any TMC rebel who of­fered the party vic­tory. Roy is con­sid­ered to have re­ha­bil­i­tated many with­out the nec­es­sary checks and bal­ances. Among the con­tro­ver­sial in­duc­tions were TMC gen­eral sec­re­tary Shankudeb Panda, who has been ques­tioned by the En­force­ment Direc­torate (ED) and the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) in the Saradha fi­nan­cial scam, and Monirul Is­lam, who has al­legedly made hate speeches against po­lit­i­cal ri­vals. In all,

With an eye on the 2021 as­sem­bly poll, the BJP wants to project it­self as a party with a dif­fer­ence. Hence the cau­tion with in­duc­tions from the TMC

five TMC MLAs and some 50 coun­cil­lors de­fected to the BJP af­ter the Lok Sabha re­sult, though some coun­cil­lors have since re­joined their orig­i­nal party. Things came to such a pass that BJP old-timers, who worked for years to build the party in Bengal, felt slighted. With ten­sions ris­ing, lead­ers like Shiv Prakash and Kailash Vi­jay­vargiya made their dis­plea­sure known. “Who­ever joins the BJP will have to im­bibe the party’s phi­los­o­phy. They will have to be con­scious about what they say and do,” said Prakash, the BJP’s na­tional joint gen­eral sec­re­tary (or­gan­i­sa­tion). Vi­jay­vargiya, na­tional gen­eral sec­re­tary and Bengal in-charge, made it clear that only TMC turn­coats with a clean im­age and ac­cept­abil­ity at the lo­cal level would be ac­cepted. Also, the switchover would not be con­di­tional to prom­ises of party po­si­tions or tick­ets in the forth­com­ing elec­tions. “We will have noth­ing to do with any­body fac­ing ‘cut-money’ (bribery) al­le­ga­tions,” Vi­jay­vargiya de­clared. The BJP lead­er­ship’s new-found in­sis­tence on fil­ter­ing the in­duc­tions from TMC is also based on its strat­egy of pro­ject­ing it­self as a party with a dif­fer­ence, as it fan­cies its chances of un­seat­ing Ma­mata in the 2021 as­sem­bly elec­tion. “Ex­pand­ing the party base with a bulk of TMC mem­bers risked turn­ing it into a shel­ter home for TMC rebels,” says Pres­i­dency Univer­sity pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus Pras­anta Ray. “And with a dis­ci­plinar­ian like the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh over­look­ing, there was bound to be op­po­si­tion to such moves.” Another rea­son is that the BJP wrested its 40 per cent vote share in the Lok Sabha elec­tion pri­mar­ily through the trans­fer of Left votes. “The BJP gained from the float­ing vote of the Left par­ties. The only way to se­cure this vote would be to not in­duct tainted TMC lead­ers,” says Dip­ti­man Sen­gupta, a BJP leader from Cooch Be­har.

RAJWANT RAWAT

BAD AP­PLES The TMC’s Monirul Is­lam (fourth from left) joins the BJP

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