BJP takes control of Bhatpara municipal body, the first in Bengal
West Bengal’s Bhatpara municipality on Tuesday became the first civic body in the state to come under the control of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 12 days after the Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP made deep inroads into West Bengal for the first time by winning 18 seats, a nine-time rise from its 2014 tally of two. The BJP never ran any civic body in the state.
Saurav Singh, a councillor from ward 20, was elected chairman of the board on Tuesday morning. In a body with 35 wards, Singh won 26 votes, marking the passing of control from the state’s ruling party to the BJP.
Singh is the nephew of Arjun Singh, BJP MP who wrested Barrackpore from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
“Arjun Singh is our leader. We will be guided by his advice,” said Saurabh Singh immediately after getting elected as the chairman.
“We were defeated since we did not have the numbers,” said the vice chairman of the outgoing board, Somenath Talukder.
Located about 43 km to the north of Kolkata, Bhatapara municipality comes under Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency. Arjun Singh was a four-time TMC legislator and the chairman of the Bhatpara municipality since 2010 till April this year.
His switch from the TMC to the BJP was the most high profile migration from Bengal’s ruling party before the elections and triggered an extremely bitter verbal and bloody fight on the roads of the area after the results.
Though a majority of the councillors from the civic bodies in Halisahar, Kanchrapara and Naihati (also in North 24 Parganas district) switched over to the BJP recently, the election of the chairman of the boards in these municipalities is yet to be held.
On 28 May, 13 of 23 councillors from Halisahar Municipality and 14 of 24 councillors of Naihati Municipality joined the BJP in Delhi. Four days later, the state government appointed an administrator for the Naihati civic body.
When contacted, Trinamool’s North 24 Parganas district president and state food and supplies minister, Jyoti Priya Mallick said the result was the outcome of money power and muscle power of Arjun Singh.
“None of the councillors was elected as BJP representatives. But unfortunately some of them succumbed to money and muscle power,” said Jyoti Priya Mallick, food and supplies minister and TMC president of North 24 Parganas district.
Over the past two months, Bhatpara municipality has been at the centre of a political storm.
On April 8, Arjun Singh was defeated in a no-confidence motion at the municipality, of which he was chairman. Singh was then defeated 22-11 in a secret ballot by the councillors at the civic body office.
After his loss, Singh had claimed that his defeat was due to TMC workers and the police threatening many councillors, who were his followers, with dire consequences if they did not oppose Singh in the no-confidence motion.