BJP insiders said that with this move the central leadership had reposed its faith in the young leadership team and sent a strong message to all the dissidents — either fall in line or face the music. This move is likely to discourage party leaders, who have been critical of the current state leadership, from following in Ghosh’s footsteps, the party functions added. The move, according to them, indicates that the central leadership is willing to give current state chief Sukanta Majumdar and others time to turn around the party’s fortunes in Bengal and prove their worth.
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In the letter to Ghosh on May 30, sent on the instructions of national party national president JP Nadda, the BJP’s national general secretary Arun Singh told the former Bengal BJP chief, “In a recent interview your comments, in the electronic media and perhaps on the other forums, have been openly critical of senior state functionaries. Such comments will only hurt and harm the party and negate your own hard work in the past. Besides, such statements, coming from a person of your stature a National Vice President, may create deep disaffection, unrest and alienation amongst the party ranks, which given the norms of political behavior and conduct, is unacceptable. The national leadership of the BJP is deeply concerned at issuance of such statements through the media.”
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Singh added, “On the instructions of Hon’ble National President Shri JP Nadda Ji, I wish to convey to you the party’s deep anguish and concern at issuance of such statements and advise you to always refrain from going to the media or any public fora , about your own colleagues either in the state of West Bengal or anywhere else. I sincerely hope that you would appreciate the sensitivity of the situation, particularly in West Bengal and shall always remain more discreet in your dealings with the print, electronic, other media or any public fora.”
According to insiders in the state BJP, the action against Ghosh has created a flutter in the state unit. Even though he is the most successful state BJP chief to date — the party won 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, its best parliamentary poll performance in Bengal — the BJP replaced Ghosh with Majumdar at the helm of the state unit last September. But the decision to pass the baton to a much younger crop of leaders did not go down well with several leaders, including Ghosh, said state BJP functionaries. The move led to growing infighting between the two camps, they added.
Last December, a new state committee was set up but it kicked a hornet’s nest. Several leaders, including party MLAs, expressed their displeasure after not finding a place in the panel. Many leaders, including Union Minister Shantanu Thakur, quit several WhatsApp groups of the party in protest.
In response, Majumdar dissolved all departments and cells of the state unit. The party expelled senior leaders Ritesh Tiwari and Joy Prakash Majumdar for publicly speaking against the new leadership and holding a meeting with the dissident leaders. In March, Majumdar joined the TMC and continued the tirade against his former party.
A section of leaders belonging to the Matua community, whose support was crucial to the party’s strong performance in the 2019 elections, also registered its protest. The community has been unhappy with the BJP-led Center for delaying the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as a sizeable number of its members have yet to receive Indian citizenship.
Amid all this infighting and a host of defections to the TMC, the BJP continued to suffer electoral reverses. After a string of losses in the civic elections, the party failed to retain the Asansol Lok Sabha seat in April. Following this, some leaders once again trained their guns on Majumdar, state general secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakravorty, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Suvendu Adhikari, and the party’s West Bengal co-in-charge Amit Malviya.
Ghosh is among those who have criticized the state leadership on several occasions for being “inexperienced” and ignoring the contribution of old-timers who helped the party grow in Bengal.
“Sukanta Majumdar is not the only one (new to the party),” the Medinipur MP told reporters on April 21. “He has just taken charge (as BJP state president). He is inexperienced. The party has fought for so many years with the help of a large number of dedicated and deserving leaders. They helped the party grow, fought at the grassroots, led several movements and stood by the people and earned their trust. These leaders should be given respect and importance. There will be changes in the leadership from time to time. But one cannot remove deserving members from the party. The party cannot ignore their contributions.”
Following reports of his censure, Ghosh claimed he had yet to receive a copy of the letter. Sukanta Majumdar, meanwhile, refused to comment on the matter. “I am not aware of the development,” he said.
State BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya also refused to say anything. “We have not officially received the copy of the letter. Still, it is completely an internal matter of the party. I will not comment on this. Dilip Ghosh is the most successful state president of the BJP. He helped the party grow in Bengal, braving challenging situations. Therefore, I will not comment on this matter.”
The TMC waded into the controversy, saying the BJP’s move was unfortunate. “Dilip Ghosh is a party old-timer and we will always have ideological differences with him,” said TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh. “However, he has spoken the truth against his party and especially against newcomers and now his party has used a bulldozer on him. BJP leaders from Delhi are deciding who will speak and who will not. Instead of improving the party organization in the state and stopping the infighting, the central BJP leadership, which does not understand the pulse of Bengal, has resorted to censuring one of its leaders. This is unfortunate.”