Leadership crisis continues to plague BJP in West Bengal

The party has struggled to find a credible face to take on TMC chief Mamata Banerjee

One of crucial factors that led to the BJP’s humiliating defeat in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls was lack of a credible leader to take on the popular and charismatic Trinamool Congress chief and Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.

Almost hundred days after the election results, the leadership crisis continues to plague the saffron party in West Bengal.

In the eight phase marathon elections, the BJP secured about 38.1 % votes and won 77 seats but came a distant second to the TMC which won 213 seats and secured 47.9 % votes.

Now when speculations are rife about the BJP national leadership wanting to appoint new State BJP presidents, the party is faced with an uphill task. The current West Bengal BJP president, Dilip Ghosh, was appointed in November 2015 and will soon be completing six years with two terms as the party chief in the State.

Using defections as a political tool and bringing in disgruntled Trinamool Congress leaders did not work for the BJP and most of the defectors lost the elections. The only key Trinamool Congress leader who has been able to make a mark in the BJP is Suvendu Adhikari, who defeated Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram with a narrow margin of 1,956 votes. Mr Adhikari has been elected leader of Opposition in the State Assembly and handed the key responsibility of leading the party in the legislature.

“The problem without leadership is that they have not been able to sustain and take any movement to its logical conclusion. Everything has been mere symbolism. Also, the party in West Bengal seems to be dependent on the central leadership,” a senior West Bengal BJP leader said.

During the past few months, the State BJP leadership was asked to suggest nominees to lead the party. The choices have zeroed-in on first-time MPs from central Bengal from the region that connects south Bengal to the BJP, and a few functionaries having close links to the party’s parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

However, many in the BJP believe that these names do not have stature to lead the party. Even in the Union Cabinet reshuffle, the BJP catered to regions and ethnicities as it appointed four first time MPs as Ministers of State.

The BJP leaders who came from Delhi to contest the Assembly polls are also missing in action in West Bengal politics. The decision of Babul Supriyo, Asansol MP to quit active politics has also come as an embarrassment for the BJP.

As Ms. Banerjee has set her sights on Tripura and is leaving no stone unturned to gain a foothold in the BJP-ruled State, the saffron party faces an urgent task to resolve the leadership question.

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