Why BJP fielded Priyanaka Tibrewal against Bengal CM for Bhabanipur bypoll
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to field a youth leader Priyanka Tibrewal, who lost at least two elections, against Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee from Bhabanipur constituency in the upcoming bypoll might have raised some eyebrows, but senior BJP leaders said a lot of thought has gone into it before the announcement was made.
Tibrewal is the vice-president of the BJP’s youth wing in the state and an advocate, who played a pivotal role in the BJP’s legal battle in the Calcutta high court on post-poll violence, which ultimately led a five-judge bench to order for a CBI probe.
“Only a woman candidate would be able to mount a direct attack against another woman candidate. A male candidate would have to think twice before making a public statement against a woman candidate. Mamata Banerjee starts crying foul whenever she is on the back foot and plays the woman-victim card. We had to take a safeguard against this,” said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
A second BJP leader said as Tibrewal has been in the forefront of the legal battle related to post-poll violence, projecting her from Bhabanipur against Banerjee would help to boost the morale of party workers.
Tibrewal had earlier contested the civic polls in 2015, but lost. In the assembly elections held earlier this year, she was fielded from Entally seat in north Kolkata, but lost to TMC’s lightweight leader Swarna Kamal Saha by more than 58,000 votes.
“We have pitted one defeated leader against another. Mamata Banerjee too was defeated four months back by BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari. As far as the question of fielding a youth leader is concerned, Tibrewal is a good fighter. In 1984, Mamata Banerjee had defeated Somnath Chatterjee. Before that who knew the name of Banerjee,” Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s state president told reporters.
BJP leaders said Rudranil Ghosh, the party’s candidate who lost from Bhabanipur in the recently held assembly polls, had also expressed interest to contest against Banerjee in the upcoming polls. He had lost to Sovandeb Chatterjee, a TMC veteran, by around 28,000 votes. But BJP leaders in Delhi chose Tibrewal.
“While on one hand the woman-to-woman fight factor was there, another factor which could have played a role is the decision behind selecting Tibrewal is that a sizeable population of the electors in Bhabanipur is Sikhs and Gujaratis,” said a BJP leader.
Another BJP leader said that a section of party leaders in the state wanted a Bengali face to be pitted from Bhabanipur so that the TMC may not play the ‘outsider’ card again this time. In the 2021 assembly election, the TMC had judiciously played the ‘outsider’ card in its favour.
“The BJP’s unit in West Bengal had sent a list, comprising some names, to the party’s leadership in Delhi. The name of Rudranil Ghosh was also there. The final call was made by the party’s top leaders,” said a BJP leader.
Banerjee, who filed her nomination on Friday, has to win the September 30 bypoll to continue as the chief minister of West Bengal. She took oath on May 5 and, as per the rules, must get elected to the legislative assembly within six months, which ends on November 5.
“The people of Bhabanipur have already chosen their leader. Let the BJP bring all their central leaders and field any one in Bhabanipur. When the results are declared, they would lose by a record margin,” said Tapas Roy, veteran TMC leader and party spokesperson.