Two important state-level leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bengal unit and two district leaders have been served show-cause notices by the party for violating discipline and making “derogatory and anti-party statements” before the media last week.
Their offence can lead to summary expulsion, said the notice. The leaders have been asked to reply within a week. The accused leaders include BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu and president of the state Mahila Morcha (women’s front) Agnimitra Paul.
Though the notice dated December 22 does not say what statements were made, leaders in the party as well as those who have been accused told HT that they publicly opposed induction of certain leaders from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) at the West Midnapore district rally of Union home minister Amit Shah on December 19. The most prominent among the defectors is Suvendu Adhikari who resigned from the cabinet last month.
Paul and Basu, for example, said on December 18 that they did not want Jitendra Tiwari, the TMC legislator from Pandabeswar in West Burdwan district and the outgoing mayor of Asansol town to join the BJP. Incidentally, Union minister of state Babul Supriyo, the Lok Sabha MP from Asansol, also expressed his reservations about Tiwari. The BJP distanced itself from Supriyo’s statement.
Tiwari, however, backed out at the last minute and returned to the ruling party on the night of December 18 even after resigning from all posts. Before making the U-turn he even attended a closed-door meeting with Adhikari and the other dissidents.
“As per Article 25D of the constitution of the BJP such action should result in your immediate expulsion,” says the letter sent to Basu, Paul, president of the Alipurduar district unit, Ganga Prashad Sharma and president of the Nagrakata area unit in Jalpaiguri district, Santosh Hati.
Adhikari and six other TMC legislators, a TMC Lok Sabha member, three MLAs from the Left and Congress and at least 20 other district-level leaders of the ruling party joined the BJP at Shah’s rally in Midnapore town. This marked the biggest defection of elected TMC leaders in the run-up to the assembly polls due in about five months.
“Nobody is above the discipline of the party. They have been warned and asked to reply to the notice,” said Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
Induction of workers and leaders from the TMC is a bone of contention in BJP units in several districts and there have been unruly incidents in the recent past.
Ghosh, however, argued that there is rivalry between old BJP members and those who joined recently. “Paul is not an old member. She joined the BJP less than two years ago. These theories are baseless,” said Ghosh.
On Wednesday, Lakshmi Soren, a BJP leader from Gazole in Malda district, resigned from the party and joined the TMC in protest against the induction of the TMC’s Gazole legislator Dipali Biswas.
Biswas won the seat in 2016 as a CPI (M) candidate but later joined the TMC. She is still a sitting legislator.