Ahead of assembly polls, tasks cut out for BJP’s national team, friction in Kerala, Bengal

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s newly appointed state in-charges, appointed by party president JP Nadda have their task cut out for them ahead of the 2021 assembly polls in five states. The functionaries have the onerous task of building cohesion in at least two of the state units– West Bengal and Kerala– that are rife with factionalism and friction. The others states that will pick new assemblies are Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Assam.

In Kerala and West Bengal where the party has been planning its electoral strategy for months; intra-party differences are threatening to throw a spanner in the works. Senior party functionaries who spoke on condition of anonymity said the national leadership has had to step in on several occasions to quell in-fighting, and with local body elections in Kerala a month away, there is fear that the skirmishes will impact the outcome.

On Friday, Nadda appointed Bijayant Panda, national vice president as the in-charge for Assam; a former Lok Sabha MP, CP Radhakrishnan was given charge of Kerala; CT Ravi a national general secretary has been given charge of Tamil Nadu while Nirmal Kumar Surana, vice president of the Karnataka unit will look after Puducherry. National general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya will continue to look after West Bengal.

Kerala

In Kerala, Radhakrishnan will have the task of bringing together the dissenting groups, which have made public their disagreements. Complaints against his style of functioning led the state unit president K Surendran being summoned to Delhi by Nadda and he also met Union home minister Amit Shah. “After (state) vice president Sobha Surendran made public her concerns, the state unit president was asked to set the house in order as it could have an adverse impact on the upcoming local body elections and then the assembly polls,” said a functionary in Delhi.

Sobha Surendran has alleged that she was overlooked for the post of the general secretary and instead made the state unit’s vice president.

“Several leaders were also upset that they were overlooked for appointments to the national team whereas relatively new to the party, Abdulla Kutty and Tom Vadakkan were accommodated as national vice president and national spokesperson,” the functionary said.

The RSS has also cautioned the central leadership that the friction in the state unit could impact the performance in the local polls; in 2016 the BJP had won in 14 districts and emerged as the main opposition in one corporation and six municipalities. Local polls will be held in three-phases on December 8, 10 and 14.

West Bengal

In West Bengal, where the party is gearing up for a tough contest against the Mamata Banerjee government, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya is not unfamiliar with the turf war in the state unit.

Several party workers in the state have complained to the party high command that those who joined from the TMC have been given plum positions. “The issue came to fore when after being dropped from the national team, Rahul Sinha posted his grievance in a video claiming that after 40 years in the BJP he was overlooked for Mukul Roy who switched sides from the TMC . The central leadership is also aware of the friction between state unit president Dilip Ghosh and some other leaders,” said a state functionary. Many leaders in the state have begun to pitch themselves as the chief ministerial candidate..

Political commentator Shirish Kashikar, however, said that the BJP’s strong point is tiding over internal differences by the time the party is in the poll mode.

“In-fighting is natural in all parties, but the BJP has the ability to scotch differences. In Bihar for instance, they set asides all considerations to win the election and give Nitish Kumar the CM’s post on a platter. So Nadda’s message to the party units will be to join forces to win the elections,” he said.

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