BJP split over anti-Muslim stance?

The deafening silence of the party high command in New Delhi over his remarks seems to have emboldened the hardliners in the state.

New Delhi: Cracks have surfaced within the Bharatiya Janata Party’s West Bengal unit over the party’s hostile stance against the minority community and Bengal intelligentsia.

Moderates in the state unit feel that at a time when protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens are raging across the country, BJP West Bengal president Dilip Ghosh’s move to spew venom against Muslims and intellectuals could “hurt the BJP’s prospects” in the forthcoming Assembly elections in 2021.

But throwing statistics at the rival camp, saffron hawks argue that Hindutva hard-shell had got the BJP 40 per cent of the vote share in the 2019 general elections and that “there’s a need to keep up the momentum”.

Meanwhile, despite reports that the BJP central leadership had cautioned Mr Ghosh following his remarks that people damaging public property were “shot like dogs” in Assam, UP and Karnataka, sources revealed that the state unit chief reportedly told some of his party colleagues that “no one has told me not to say what I have been saying.”

That the Bengal state unit chief was determined to continue with his rhetoric became evident after he followed up his “shot like dogs remarks” with “50 lakh Muslim infiltrators will be identified and chased out of the country.”

The deafening silence of the party high command in New Delhi over his remarks seems to have emboldened the hardliners in the state.

The BJP state general secretary, Sayantan Basu, went on to describe the protesting intellectuals as “monkeys.” He was reacting to another BJP MP, Soumitra Khan’s description of protesting intellectuals as “Mamata Banerjee’s dogs.”

“If you have don’t want to use the word dog, you can call them monkeys,” the BJP state general secretary said.

The Dilip Ghosh camp is of the opinion that the anti-Muslim rants have found their audience among the “lower middle class” and rural Bengal. It was argued that the belligerent stand against the so-called “illegal immigrants” has been consolidating the Hindu vote bank in areas like North 24 Parganas, Nadia, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Malda, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.

The moderates on the other hand believe that following the aggressive anti-minority and anti-intelligentsia stand of the state BJP, Left parties’ vote bank, which had moved to the BJP during the 2019 general elections, “is now shifting towards the Trinamul Congress.”

During the 2014 general elections, the CPI(M) vote share was nearly 29 per cent. Of this nearly 20 per cent was transferred to the BJP during the 2019 general elections, making the party improve its vote share from 17 per cent in 2014 to nearly 40 per cent in 2019.

Meanwhile, sensing that her party’s direct involvement in the ongoing anti-CAA-NRC protests in the state could give the BJP a political handle, TMC chief and state chief minister Mamata Banerjee has urged students to take the movement forward.

As for the divide in the state unit, Union minister and Bengal BJP MP Babul Supriyo and state unit vice-president Chandra Kumar Bose have openly opposed the hostile remarks. Expressing disdain over Mr Ghosh’s remarks, Mr Supriyo described them as “irresponsible” and a “figment of his imagination.” Mr Bose has said that “just because we have the numbers, we cannot indulge in terror politics.”

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