What Does Babul Supriyo's Exit Signify for the BJP in West Bengal?

The former Union minister's move is the latest sign that the party's internal feud is spiralling out of control.

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Kolkata: Babul Supriyo’s exit from active politics has brought to the fore the internecine and vitriolic fight within the West Bengal BJP, with indications that more leaders will follow suit.

In order to assuage the two-time Union minister, BJP president J.P. Nadda called him to New Delhi and dissuaded him from resigning his post as MP. Supriyo said that he will not join any other party and will continue to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said he would help the people of his constituency and perform the duties of his post, but would not participate in other political activities.

Supriyo’s exit has raised several questions among state BJP leaders. Supriyo was evidently disappointed when he was dropped from the cabinet during the recent reshuffle and vented his thoughts via a Facebook post. A section of party leaders felt that if he has problems with party members, he should have discussed and resolved it internally rather than venting his opinion in public.

In the recent assembly elections in West Bengal, Supriyo was pitted against the Trinamool Congress’s Aroop Biswas from the Tollyganj constituency and lost. A senior state BJP leader said, “There are no shortcuts in politics. There will be situations where you might not feel comfortable. But you have to move on. Things might not be right for a political leader at one point of time, but they might get fixed later. We have to wait and watch.”

Sources in the state BJP said that in the present political circumstances, the party is not sure whether any of its candidates would be able to win by-elections from Asansol if Supriyo were to resign. This is perhaps why Nadda insisted that Supriyo should not resign. However, another state BJP leader said, “Supriyo wants to enjoy the privileges he receives as an MP. That is why he does not want to leave his post.”

Other leaders say that the BJP is also not concerned about retaining its base in several constituencies and is planning to organise meetings in several districts in the presence of Union ministers.

Interestingly, a few months ago, during a party organisational meet at Bongaon where Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was present, three MLAs – Biswajit Das from Bagda, Ashok Kirtaniya from Bongaon Uttar and Subrata Thakur from Gaighata – did not join the meeting. Thakur is the brother of Shantanu Thakur, who was recently added to the Union Cabinet.

Besides Supriyo, Bengali leader Debasree Chaudhuri was also dropped from the Cabinet. In their place, four other leaders from Bengal – Nisith Pramanik, Shantanu Thakur, Subhas Sarkar and John Barla – were inducted as ministers of state.

Suvendu Adhikari’s influence

Party insiders said that Supriyo had been vocal against some leaders who were “trying to give a wrong impression” of the state BJP unit to the central leadership. For this reason, he was “sidelined”, which forced Supriyo to speak out on Facebook.

Supriyo is not the only disgruntled member, according to sources. Other dissatisfied members have also raised the issue with party functionaries, but the party has failed to look at this matter, they say. After the assembly election, a perception has grown among long-time state members that the national leadership is giving more importance to Suvendu Adhikari, the Mamata loyalist who joined the party last year. This is a major reason for the discontent and leaders say if the central leadership does not course correct, more leaders will leave.

A senior BJP leader said, “The central leadership has failed to keep its word to leaders. Whoever is trying to put their view forward is being sidelined. Some of them voiced their thoughts on social media, while some of them remained silent and continue to be sidelined.”

Political analysts also attribute Supriyo’s decision to exit from politics to his sidelining. Whenever he tried to raise his voice, it was suppressed.

Professor Siuli Sarkar, professor of political science and principal of Lady Brabourne College, said, “Supriyo was aggrieved after he was dropped from the cabinet. Despite being a two time MP, Supriyo was forced to contest the assembly election from a different seat, which only aggravated his anger towards the party. His decision to quit politics is the result of all the decisions taken in the past by the party and the equation he shares now with the party leadership.”

It may be mentioned that apart from Supriyo, another MP, Roopa Ganguly, has not been involved in active politics for several months. She has remained silent and has not voiced her opinion yet.

Dilip Ghosh, the BJP state president, criticised Supriyo’s move. He said, “In politics, there is no place for drama and theatrics. If Supriyo wants to resign, he should officially give a resignation letter. Till now the state BJP leadership has not received any letter from him and to the best of our knowledge, Supriyo is still with the BJP.”