As poll battle heats up, infighting hits Bengal BJP
Top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Union home minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda, held back-to-back meetings in Kolkata amid protests by sections of the party over candidate selection for the upcoming assembly elections.
A senior BJP leader said Shah and Nadda held meetings in Kolkata late into the night on Monday, and a second meeting on Tuesday morning. Other party leaders said a team of senior state BJP leaders will fly to Delhi for a Wednesday meeting to discuss the selection of candidates for the remaining four phases of the eight-phase polls.
The disgruntlement among some leaders over the selection of party candidates may also come up in the Delhi meeting, a party leader said.
“In the two meetings held in Kolkata on Monday and Tuesday, the state leaders had to face some questions raised by Shah and Nadda on the ongoing protests and the selection of candidates, which have led to the protests in some areas,” said the BJP leader cited in the first instance.
Protests started on Sunday, soon after the BJP announced the names of 63 candidates for the third and fourth phases of the assembly polls starting on March 27. A point of discontent was the inclusion of “outsiders” -- the BJP list included names of at least four actors and several former TMC leaders who recently switched sides.
BJP supporters from Canning West, Magrahat, Kultali, Joynagar and Bishnupur protested outside the Hastings party headquarters, forcing the police to lathi charge.“We will sit idle and not work for the party’s election campaign if the candidates are not withdrawn immediately,” said Ronny Manna, a long-time BJP worker from Magrahat.
In some parts, BJP supporters vandalised party offices and locked up central leaders, blocked roads and burnt tyres.
A BJP minister from Madhya Pradesh was locked inside a room by irate party workers in Singur on Sunday after the party fielded a former TMC leader Rabindranath Bhattacharya, who joined the BJP this month. At Panchla in Howrah BJP supporters ransacked a party office. Posters came up at Uttarpara in Hooghly against the BJP candidate Prabir Ghosal. He was a former TMC MLA who had recently joined the BJP.
“The incident was unwanted, unfortunate and doesn’t the party’s dignity. It is not true that the protests have spread far and wide or are going on across the state. There is disgruntlement in three to four constituencies. Those who came to the BJP office were far less in number given the BJP’s strength in those constituencies. But they are also party workers. Their demands are not being undermined. But the way they are protesting is not right. The party is holding discussions,” said party spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya.
The Trinamool Congress took a jibe at the BJP, saying the party lacked leaders in West Bengal and was borrowing candidates from other parties. “The party, which sidelined senior leaders like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi for their age, is now giving tickets to octogenarian leaders who left the TMC and joined the BJP. Actually they don’t have enough leaders and faces to project,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.