Latest News

October 5, 2015

BJP has finally found its leader in ‪‎Bengal: Derek O’Brien

I usually write an opinion or analysis post, explaining my, or my party’s, position on an issue. Today, I’m going to break news: the BJP has finally found its leader in West Bengal and its face for the 2016 assembly election. The active politician who’s going to front for the party and in effect handle its campaign is Kesrinath Tripathi. As it happens, he is the governor of the state. And the incumbent in Raj Bhawan is supposed to be apolitical, and meant to be scrupulously neutral, especially in these days of so-called “cooperative federalism”.

Yes, governors have been misused by earlier governments, especially the Congress. Yes, it is a fact that unlike the President – who has key constitutional duties and is at least indirectly elected by legislators at the national and state level – the governor has nothing much to do. Raj Bhawans have been reduced to retirement postings for political has-beens.

We expected this culture to change, with the BJP-led government promising a relook at the utility of public positions, taking time to choose those it considered appropriate for a job (which is why the PMO is sitting on so many files and has still not filled so many crucial vacancies in the Central government, 18 months after coming to power). We expected that the Prime Minister and his team would be true to their promise of “cooperative federalism” and at least consult state governments and not send saboteurs to Raj Bhawan, but upright and apolitical people.

Instead we have got more of the same. Busy-bodies and failed politicians, those who couldn’t make it to the top rung of the BJP or were no longer useful to the current boss men of the party, have been kicked upstairs. Unfortunately, their instincts and their KRAs (Key Result Areas) have been defined by their appointing authorities in Delhi and are largely to do with sabotaging and harassing duly elected and popular governments in states, and using the Raj Bhawan to further the propaganda of the BJP.

Under Mr Tripathi, Raj Bhawan has become a hotbed of intrigue and virtually the state headquarters of the BJP. Almost every day, party leaders and ideologues seem to meet here to discuss new ways of needling the Mamata Banerjee government. The latest excuse is the unfortunately and condemnable violence, limited to a few pockets, that accompanied municipal polls last week.

The Trinamool Congress denounces such incidents, as long-term victims of political violence at the hands of CPI(M) goons, we are very sensitive to such concerns. The police is investigating and doing its job. The guilty will be punished. If it is found that a few of the trouble-makers have a link with the ruling party, it will not matter. As I write this, three people have already been arrested. But it is not for the BJP pracharak cum governor to poke his nose and play judge, jury and executioner.

On behalf of Trinamool, I must emphasise that the party doesn’t need to resort to violence to win elections. Mamatadi will lead us to victory, in the municipal elections and the assembly elections in a few months. We have won every election since 2008, and handsomely. Our record of development and our transparency is there for all to see. We are not a trigger-happy political party that provokes riots to win elections. Mr Tripathi and his political colleagues may be familiar with such practices but Trinamool is not and abhors such conduct.

Mr Tripathi is an honoured guest in West Bengal. He can be a guiding figure for our state. But he has to decide whether he is West Bengal’s elder statesman or Delhi’s Viceroy. He cannot be both. The Raj Bhawan shakha must stop.