BJP banks on a new team to counter TMC in Bengal polls

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has been at loggerheads with the Trinamool Congress government over the latter’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has now picked a new team in West Bengal, with known Mamata Banerjee-baiters getting key positions.

“It is a mix of the old and the new to take on the state government. For the 2021 assembly polls, these faces will lead the campaign against the Trinamool government’s 10 year-misrule,” said a senior functionary.

On Monday, state unit president Dilip Ghosh announced the names of BJP’s new state leadership--12 vice-presidents, five general secretaries, and 10 secretaries—which is seen as a major rejig in the state unit ahead of the polls.

Ghosh, a former pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was given a second term in January, amid speculation that the he could be replaced.

Members of the Lok Sabha, Arjun Singh, who represents Barrackpore, Locket Chatterjee who represents Hoogly, and Bishnupur MP Saumitra Khan, who are known for their fiery speeches and often controversial stances are part of the new team. While Khan has been made in charge of the Yuva Morcha; Singh is now a vice president and Chatterjee is the party’s general secretary.

“These young MPs are West Bengal’s voice in Parliament and now they will be the faces of the party on the streets. The state has suffered for years and the BJP will end the politics of appeasement,” said the functionary quoted above.

A second leader said the party wanted a team that has “aggressive opening batsmen, the reliable mid order and the all-rounders” who can take forward the party’s forceful posturing in taking on the Mamata government.

The new team also has on board a former confidant of the CM, the ex-West Midnapore police superintendent Bharati Ghosh; fashion designer Agnimitra Paul who has been given charge of the women’s wing.

Even though the BJP began assiduously increasing its footprint in the state after winning three seats and 10% of the votes in 2016 assembly elections, it has had to accommodate rebels to help consolidate its position.

In the new team too, the party has accommodated Khangen Murmu and Dulal Bor; who joined the BJP from the CPIM and Congress respectively. Khan, Singh and Sabyasachi Dutta, who is now a secretary, were part of the TMC before switching to the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“We have been chosen by the party to expose the dynastic rule of Mamata and her nephew. We will fight the good fight like loyal soldiers of the party,” Khan said.

Even as the state has been engaged in fighting the pandemic and subsequently engaged in relief work following the cyclone Amphan, the BJP has kept up the pressure on the state government.

“The state government’s response to the pandemic has been deplorable. Instead of taking help from the centre, the state government has taken an adversarial position. Even after the cyclone, the PM gave Rs 1000 crore for the relief and rehabilitation, but there has been no change in the TMC’s stance,” the first functionary said.

Political commentator Kumar Rana however said the BJP’s attempts at drawing a parallel between the state and the Centre’s response to the pandemic will not cut ice. “In the BJP-ruled states and at the Centre too, the response has not been any different. States have no money, so TMC government cannot be singled out. The BJP is trying to create a stir,” he said.

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