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Ghosh vs Khan in Bengal BJP is a fight for control between old guard & Trinamool defectors

Feud was out in the open on 23 October when state president Dilip Ghosh dissolved all district committees of the Yuva Morcha, headed by Saumitra Khan, once with the TMC.

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Kolkata: Six months before the crucial West Bengal assembly elections, the state BJP unit has been beset by a factional feud — an unprecedented development for a party with a reputation of regimented and disciplined functioning. 

There had been murmurs of internal rumblings within the BJP but all that boiled over on 23 October when state president Dilip Ghosh unilaterally dissolved all district committees of the party’s Yuva Morcha. The committees had been formed just the day earlier by Lok Sabha MP Saumitra Khan, who heads the BJP Yuva Morcha. 

The two men had been at loggerheads for a while and Ghosh’s decision prompted Khan to threaten to quit the party. The BJP central leadership then stepped in to resolve the issue, following which both MPs met Tuesday to exchange Bijoya greetings. 

Their war-of-words, however, hasn’t gone down well with the BJP leadership. Sources in the state BJP said both Ghosh and Khan have been warned.  

This is a rare instance of two warring BJP leaders publicly taking on each other. Sources in the party said it is emblematic of the situation in the West Bengal BJP where the party old guard has been at loggerheads with newbies, a majority of them Trinamool turncoats.

Khan only joined the BJP two years ago from the Trinamool Congress. 

The Print spoke to some senior state BJP leaders who claimed that the turncoats are trying to break party discipline while central leaders said Ghosh behaved “adamantly”. 

Also read: Bengal’s Durga Puja 2020 is a petri dish of politics and pandemic, a perfect storm for BJP

Factionalism boils over

Saumitra Khan, also the BJP MP from Bishnupur, had selected and circulated a list of senior members of the Yuva Morcha’s state and district committees on 22 and 23 October. 

Ghosh, who only recently recovered from Covid, claimed to be in the dark about the organisational reshuffle. He issued an internal communication, dated 23 October, cancelling Khan’s list and dissolving all district committees.  

“Due to some reasons, until any further announcements, all district presidents of BJYM and respective committees are being dissolved from today,” the communication said. 

According to a senior BJP leader, Khan in his committee had included three members who are close to three different Trinamool turncoats who are now BJP MPs. The leader added that he also chose two district presidents who are close to MPs Locket Chatterjee and Arjun Singh, also once with the TMC, and a general secretary who is Khan’s close associate.  

“They were included in the committees without any discussion. The decision irked Ghosh,” said the senior leader. “Soumitra made a mistake by not consulting Dilipda. But, Dilipda behaved in an adamant and arrogant way. It should not have come out in the open. The BJP is a disciplined party and all members should maintain the discipline.” 

Following this, Khan wanted to resign from his position, said a party insider. Khan left the BJYM WhatsApp group and expressed his wish to step down, the insider added. 

“But issues are now resolved with the intervention of top leaders, including national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiyaji and national secretary Arvind Menonji,” said a senior central leader. 

Learn party ways: Ghosh

Dilip Ghosh, on his part, told ThePrint that those joining the party now have to learn its ways and rules. 

“There are some new members, who do not know rules and regulations in the party,” he told ThePrint. “They have to learn the rules and respect seniors. For forming committees, state and district leaders need to be consulted. It cannot be done unilaterally.” 

Ghosh added that the central leaders are aware of the decisions and series of incidents happening at the organisational level. 

Khan, however, said the issues have been resolved. “There were some issues related to the appointment of district presidents. We have resolved them. I faced similar problems a month back too. But I went and met Dilipda. We are good now,” he told The Print.

He uploaded a video message on Twitter on 26 October and said, “There can be differences of opinion in the party. But I cannot leave the party for a particular individual. I joined BJP seeing Modiji and Amitji.” 

Old versus new

The struggle between the old guard and the new entrants is a facet of politics in West Bengal. The BJP is just the latest party to face it. But it comes at a time when the party is increasingly being seen as the principal opposition force. 

“Over the last three months, there has been a running feud between Ghosh and Khan, but this is the first time it came out in open,” said a senior leader of the state committee. “The issues between the state president and Khan are mostly related to organisational appointments. Both leaders want their men to hold positions.” 

BJP’s Bengal unit has at least six newbies — four of them Trinamool defectors — who hold national and state posts. They include the party’s state general secretary Locket Chatterjee, national vice-president Mukul Roy, national secretary Anupam Hazra, Khan, BJP Mahila Morcha president Agnimitra Paul and national spokesperson Raju Bista. Only Paul and Bista are not TMC defectors. 

On the contrary, only two members of the old guard — Dilip Ghosh and Subrata Chatterjee — hold organisational positions. While Ghosh is the state president, Cahtterjee is the state’s organisational secretary. 

The ruling Trinamool Congress, though, sees an opportunity in the BJP power struggle. 

“The party is yet to come in power and they are already fighting among themselves internally. We do not see any future for a party that is primarily being run by defectors,” veteran TMC MP Saugata Roy said.

“Saumitra Khan was a Congress MLA. He joined Trinamool and became an MP. Later, he was denied a ticket in Trinamool, he joined BJP.” 

Also read: Trinamool welcomes GJM’s Bimal Gurung, but says no question of separate Gorkhaland


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