Ahead of 2024 national polls, BJP replaces organisational unit chiefs in Bengal
On April 14, Union home minister Amit Shah addressed a rally in Birbhum and said BJP must win over 35 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has replaced at least 13 organisational unit chiefs in West Bengal and made seven members of the assembly their heads as part of preparations for the 2024 national polls, leaders aware of the matter said. Before the reshuffle on Sunday, only two members of the assembly headed the units
On April 14, Union home minister Amit Shah addressed a rally in Birbhum and said BJP must win over 35 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP on Sunday increased its organisational units from 42 to 43. It made Jangipur, a part of the Murshidabad district which has the highest Muslim population (66.28%) in the state, a separate unit with a new president.
Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee represented Jangipur in Parliament twice before becoming the President of India. His son, Abhijit Mukherjee, held the seat twice before the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) bagged it for the first time in 2019.
A BJP office-bearer said with Jangipur, the BJP now has three organisational units in Murshidabad. “In the adjoining Malda district, which has Bengal’s second-highest Muslim population of 51.27%, the BJP had two organisational units. The changes were made following the advice of Sunil Bansal, Mangal Pandey, and other central leaders.”
Congress won West Bengal’s two Lok Sabha seats in Murshidabad and Malda districts in 2019.
BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury bagged 40% of votes in 2019 in the Malda South constituency, which has a 64% Muslim population. She lost to Congress by around 8,000 votes. BJP’s first Muslim woman candidate in Bengal, Mafuza Khatun, got 24.3% votes in 2019 in Jangipur, where Muslims account for 82% of the population.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee increased TMC’s organisational units by seven to 35 last year and announced seven new districts will be carved out of Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, and Bankura, taking their number from 23 to 30. She announced Murshidabad’s division into Berhampore and Jangipur. The announcement was seen as part of TMC’s preparation for the 2024 polls.
A second BJP leader said the reshuffle announced on Sunday indicates that Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the assembly, will have more control.
In the 2021 assembly polls, BJP bagged 77 of the 294 assembly seats while the TMC 215. The BJP’s tally has since effectively come down to 69. The BJP lost two seats to TMC in by-polls after two lawmakers resigned to retain their Lok Sabha seats. Five legislators joined TMC without resigning while a BJP lawmaker passed away in July.
Manoj Tigga, BJP’s chief whip in the assembly, has been named the Alipurduar district unit head. Assembly members have also been made presidents of organisational units in Hooghly, Nadia, Bankura, and East Midnapore districts.
The BJP has performed well in these districts since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP won 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Two of them have since joined TMC.
TMC legislator Tapas Roy said the BJP does a lot of experiments, hoping to secure votes. “As the July 8 panchayat polls showed, the party still does not have a strong base in Bengal.”
BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya insisted the reshuffle was routine. “Our party makes organisational changes across India from time to time. This should not be linked to elections. We will sweep in Bengal [in the 2024 polls].”
BJP workers staged a demonstration on Tuesday demanding the removal of Nabendusundar Naskar as the new head of the Mathurapur unit. Naskar unsuccessfully contested the panchayat polls as an independent candidate after he was denied a ticket.