By Sujit Bhar
Throughout the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unbelievably high decibel campaign across West Bengal, it had its biggest guns blazing. An array of national leaders, starting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Home Minister Amit Shah, party president JP Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh – even Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, for good measure – were airlifted to huge rallies across the state. The assault was impressive, by any standards. Yet, all along, the BJP failed to project even one person as a Chief Minister hopeful. Some said they didn’t need to, Modi sells everything. So if the party won, it would have been just a meeting in Delhi to impose a chief minister.
Sounded very much like what the Congress did during its heydays. Even then, though, there would be a couple of faces, at the most, who would joust for the prime post.
The number of high profile people who landed in Bengal, jostling for a chief ministerial position, was amazing. There was the Oxford-educated, suave ex-journalist Swapan Dasgupta, who gave up his Rajya Sabha seat to fight in Tarakeshwar, a pith with a famous Shiva temple and where Dasgupta may never have visited before this. There, of course, was Dilip Ghosh, the state party president, who, despite not having fought the elections, was a CM hopeful anyway. There was ex-TMC political manager Mukul Roy, who was fighting his only second election battle of his career (he won in Krishnanagar) and there was Subhendu Adhikary, who was the biggest turncoat the Trinamool Congress has seen so far. Also in attendance was Tathagatha Roy, who, till August 2018, was tweeting pretty objectionable stuff from the Governor’s palace in Tripura, as was Union minister Babul Supriyo, who was presented as an assembly seat hopeful, probably also a CM hopeful.
Many of these CM “hopefuls” have hastily returned to their respective nests, now that the new land seems inhospitable. But even if the BJP didn’t need a CM face, it will now need a Leader of the Opposition. To use the 77 members to effect, there has to be a strong front-man, with post-poll violence on the rise. It probably boils down to a three-horse race now. Ghosh, Roy and Adhikary.
Ghosh is a hardcore nationalist, right wing worker, low on knowledge, but high on loyalty, an ardent sakha-sweeper. Parliamentary ethics isn’t his strong point and the hustle of the on-street fights is where he fits in. But that will leave him stranded in the same position (state party president) as when he started. He wants part of the credit for boosting the BJP tally from 3 to 77 and that deserves a ‘promotion’.
Roy is the eternal behind-the-wings man, now an actor in spotlight. His stint at the Railways ministry was as disastrous as it has been questionable, and he has always been at ease in handling (sometimes mishandling) political aspirants on either side of the divide. He would love a post, surely, as a present, but maybe he’d be more comfortable in places with a bit more shadow.
Adhikary is an out-and-out Vibhishana. Would even his own party bosses keep faith in him, in the highly volatile atmosphere of the West Bengal assembly? He was chased by protesters when he had gone to collect his certificate (of having won from Nandigram, defeating Mamata Banerjee), and he had to run away and hide for long hours before being rescued by security people. This doesn’t add any shade confidence to his image as the Medinipur ‘strongman’. His entire family was once the darling of the TMC. Now they are the scourge. Had the BJP come to power, they would have become emperors of all they surveyed. Now, not much so.
That leaves us with a number of names, but they haven’t won at the hustings.
Which brings us down to the issue of no face yet for the Leader of the Opposition post as well for the BJP.