File image of West Bengal BJP member Bharati Ghosh | Twitter/ Bharati Ghosh
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Kolkata: Bharati Ghosh, a former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who was once so affectionate with West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) president Mamata Banerjee that she called her “Ma”, was made the national spokesperson of the BJP Sunday.

The two women fell out four years ago, when Mukul Roy, the then Trinamool Congress national general secretary, joined the BJP.

Ghosh was known to be close to Roy and, soon after his defection, she took voluntary retirement for “personal reasons” in December 2017. She had just been transferred out of her position as Superintendent of Police of the Naxal violence-affected West Midnapore district to a less prestigious posting as the commandant of the third battalion of the state’s armed police forces. More serious problems soon followed.

In 2018, several charges were slapped against Ghosh, who is currently facing at least 19 cases, including attempt to murder, rioting, leaking official documents, and holding disproportionate assets.

In February 2019, Ghosh joined the BJP, in a decision that she described as “revenge” against the TMC, according to some news reports. While Mukul Roy has since returned to the TMC, Ghosh’s elevation as national spokesperson suggests that the BJP is keen to retain her.

Dilip Ghosh, the BJP’s national vice-president, confirmed this to ThePrint. “Bharati is a fighter… we will train her for future positions,” he said.


Also Read: SC relief for Bengal BJP candidate Bharati Ghosh, says arrest warrant be kept in abeyance


From accolades to ‘police cases’

Bharati Ghosh, who is 59 years old, has to her credit impressive academic credentials, including an LLB from Burdwan University and a diploma from Harvard, and a career that included a stint in the UN’s peacekeeping mission.

In August 2014, she won a medal for commendable service from Mamata Banerjee, but returned it after her relations with the Trinamool chief soured.

In February 2018, two months after her resignation from service, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) raided Ghosh’s house in south Kolkata. The CID reportedly seized around 39 litres of imported liquor and sealed her house. Following this, Ghosh started speaking publicly against the Trinamool Congress and accusing it of slapping “fake cases” against her in order to prevent her from joining any political party.

Exactly a year later, Ghosh joined the BJP in the presence of the party’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya in Delhi. That same year, Ghosh contested the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket from Ghatal in West Midnapore, but lost to TMC candidate Deepak Adhikari aka Dev. Notwithstanding her electoral defeat by a margin of over 1 lakh votes, Ghosh continued to rise in prominence in the BJP’s Bengal unit, and was designated as the party’s state vice-president.

Earlier this year, Ghosh contested the assembly elections from the Debra constituency in West Midnapore against TMC candidate Humayun Kabir, who is also a former IPS officer. Ghosh lost to Kabir by around 11,000 votes, but once again this did not stop her rise in the ranks, and she was made the national spokesperson of the party in November.

According to her election affidavit, Ghosh has 19 criminal cases against her, including attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, rioting, criminal breach of trust, fraud, and theft. Talking to The Print, a senior CID official said, out of the 19 cases, six were “very serious”.

“We got an arrest warrant issued, but she got a stay from the Supreme Court. The investigations are on, but the cases are still sub judice,” the official said.

BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh, however, hinted that the former IPS officer is being victimised. “We are trying to get stronger and younger people at the helm of affairs, Bharati is a fighter. She joined us in 2019, and has been fighting all atrocities against her and her family since then. She never bows down. We will train her for future positions,” he told ThePrint.


Also Read: Mamata Banerjee & her IPS officers — 9 joined Trinamool in 10 years, 4 were ministers


A ‘potential’ winner for Bengal BJP

A senior BJP leader, who is also a member of the party’s national executive, said the BJP was keen to retain defectors and former associates of the TMC.

“Most of the Trinamool defectors who joined the BJP before and after the 2019 elections and before the 2021 elections have returned to Trinamool. Bharati was never a member of Trinamool formally, but she was close to the party. Moreover, she was close to Mukul Roy, who joined the Trinamool again,” the leader added. “So, we are trying to retain those of them who have some potential. Bharati is one of them.”

Another senior BJP leader said although Ghosh lost the election, “her campaign was full of action… she is someone who speaks her mind and people listen to her”.

The leader added that Ghosh’s post as a national spokesperson was intended to send out a key message. “The central leadership wants to keep the focus on West Bengal and her inclusion as the national spokesperson will help deliver the message that the party has not left West Bengal after the defeat.”

The BJP’s continuing focus on West Bengal is evident in the appointment of the former state president of the party, Dilip Ghosh, as the national vice-president in September this year. “It has become all the more imperative to focus on West Bengal after a number of MLAs and leaders left the BJP for the TMC. The party wants to send out a message that Bengal is crucial in its scheme of things,” another BJP leader said.

Political violence in West Bengal also figured in the resolution that the BJP passed in it national executive meeting early this November.

Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the party “strongly condemns” the post-poll violence in Bengal and would stand by every BJP worker who suffered. At the national executive meeting, the party also made it a point to highlight that despite having lost to the Trinamool Congress in the assembly elections, the BJP’s vote percentage rose to 38 per cent (from about 10 per cent in the 2016 state elections).

Another BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, said the party is keen to groom women leaders in West Bengal to take on Mamata Banerjee. Bharati Ghosh’s increasing importance in the party can also be gauged by the fact that she was given space in the national executive of the party. “Apart from her, five more leaders from West Bengal were included. This indicates that the party wants state politics to be driven by state leaders,” said another leader.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)


Also read: BJP is now a formidable opposition in Bengal, will keep a check on Mamata’s politics


 

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