Agartala: Amidst widespread speculation of ‘dissidenting’ BJP MLAs deserting the party and returning to the Trinamool Congress ahead of the 2023 assembly elections in Tripura, three party leaders from the BJP’s central command arrived in the state on June 16, and held a series of discussions.
BJP’s national general secretary B.L. Santosh, organisational in-charge of Tripura Phanindra Nath Sharma and North East zonal secretary Ajay Jamwal landed in Agartala and held a series of meeting with senior BJP leaders, MLAs, and MPs.
According to sources within the party, certain ‘dissident’ BJP MLAs in Tripura were in touch with TMC leader Mukul Roy, who returned to the Trinamool Congress this week after spending 44 months at BJP, and were planning to leave the saffron party.
Led by the former health minister and BJP MLA Sudip Roy Barman, the dissident BJP MLAs visited the national capital to seek a change in state leadership. As per reports, around nine MLAs went to Delhi with Roy Barman who considered to be close to Mukul Roy.
However, the central leadership has said that there would be no change in state leadership.
In July last year, a group of BJP supporters had raised slogans saying ‘Biplab hataao, BJP bachaao’ during BJP’s Tripura in-charge Vinod Sonkar’s visit to Agartala.
Speaking to reporters amidst the meeting yesterday, the saffron party’s state chief Manik Saha said the central leadership was ‘individually’ discussing issues with all ministers, MLAs, MPs and would also hold collective discussion sessions. “The central leadership is giving us a heading to move ahead. The meeting is aimed at strengthening the party organisation and how the party workers can reach the common masses during the COVID-19 situation,” Saha said.
Asked about whether the BJP is keen on a shuffle, the party president said that his party had received ‘no such reports’.
“I don’t think any MLAs are angry with us. All our MLAs are with us. Several issues arise in a family. These will be solved. Whenever these incidents arise, these will be discussed through discussion,” Saha said and added that everything was well in the party and any differences would be resolved through discussion.
As per sources within the party, central leaders had during the meeting offered a cabinet berth to MLA Sudip Roy Barman but he denied accepting it. However, Barman refused to comment on the issue.
Among those present at the meeting were two Lok Sabha MPs, chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Verma and law minister Ratan Lal Nath.
Meanwhile, an MLA close to Sudip Roy, and who didn’t wished to be named, said, “They do have issues. But talk of joining Trinamool Congress is baseless rumour mongering. We are very much in BJP. We have some differences. We are discussing with the high command. The high command will handle it,” he said.
After the meeting all the party leaders remained tight-lipped and referred to the meeting as an ‘organisational meeting’.
“It was an organisational meeting to discuss our party strategy and to strengthen the party,” Ajay Jamwal said.
The BJP had formed a government in an alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) in 2018 in the state ending CPI(M)’s 25 year long rule. The BJP has 36 MLAs, while IPFT has eight and the remaining 16 are with the CPI(M).
The impasse between MLA Sudip Roy Barman and chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb started after Barman was removed from the post of health minister in June 2019 and Deb kept the portfolio for himself. Roy Barman had subsequently openly criticised the health department for ‘mismanagement’ and was also booked for paying a unauthorised visit to a COVID-19 care centre last year.