In a possible setback for the BJP in West Bengal, Union minister Shantanu Thakur left the West Bengal BJP WhatsApp Group on Monday, sparking speculations as many within the party feel he is trying to send feelers to Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders.
Sources close to Thakur told CNN-News18 that despite all the buzz “it is impossible that he will jump ship and join TMC”. They said he will stay within the system and fight. Sources pointed out that Thakur’s problem essentially is the inclusion of people from Dilip Ghosh’s camp in the state committee. Thakur was constantly nudged and sidelined by Ghosh when he was the state president.
BJP sources say as of now Thakur has not approached the party nor the party has approached him. They will wait for him to raise the issue at an appropriate platform.
Thakur clarified that he has quit the ‘West Bengal BJP WhatsApp Group’ but is present in other BJP WhatsApp groups. “I will inform the media people about my future stand soon,” he added.
At present, Thakur holds the portfolio of Minister of State in the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. He is the BJP Lok Sabha MP from Bongaon in North 24-Parganas district.
Welcoming Thakur’s move, senior TMC leader and state forest minister Jyotipriyo Mullick said, “Whatever he had said about the BJP is correct. His stand proved that he is a true Matua leader. Matua people believe in peace and love and BJP utilised them for their political benefits.”
Recently, Thakur had expressed discontent after the Matua community leaders were not given any prominence in the revised list of state committee members, district president, district-in-charge, Bibhag-in-charge and Bibhag convenors announced by state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar on December 23.
Following the development, five BJP MLAs quit the official WhatsApp group of the party’s legislature: Asim Sarkar (Haringhata MLA in Nadia), Ambika Roy (Kalyani MLA in Nadia), Subrata Thakur (Gaighata MLA in North 24-Parganas), Mukut Mani Adhikari (Ranaghat South MLA in Nadia) and Ashok Kirtaniya (Bongaon North MLA in North 24-Parganas district).
Thakur then sought an appointment with national party president JP Nadda to discuss the matter along with the five disgruntled MLAs. Sources said Nadda assured him that their grievances will be heard.
TMC MP Sukhendu Shekhar Roy told News18, “I will not name any specific persons but it is a fact that BJP leaders are quitting their party’s WhatsApp group. Soon, they will leave BJP because they are politically insignificant in West Bengal.”
This is not for the first time that Thakur expressed his discontent over the role of the central leadership in issues related to the Matua community.
On December 29, 2020, Thakur had asked home minister Amit Shah that the Centre should clarify their stand over the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the state.
Thakur, who won the Bongaon seat while riding the waves of “BJP’s citizenship promise” to the Matua community, now seems to be in an odd situation over the delay in the implementation of CAA in Bengal.
The anger among the people close to Thakur has gained momentum after Matua leaders were sidelined in the reshuffled list prepared by the state party president on December 23.
Thakur, who is also the joint president of the All India Matua Mahasangha, has been missing from the BJP meetings recently.
In 2019 Lok Sabha, besides winning the confidence of ‘Matua community’, the BJP has also managed to capitalise on the Left Front’s vote share which helped Shantanu Thakur to elbow Trinamool Congress’ heavyweight candidate Mamata Thakur. Then, Shantanu Thakur defeated Mamata by nearly 96,000 votes.
The Matua community was a key force behind Mamata Banerjee’s triumph over the 34-year-old Left-Front government in the 2011 assembly election.
However, during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the shift of the Left vote and rift among Matuas created a favourable situation for the BJP due its CAA card.
But now since the process of CAA has been delayed due to Covid-19, the TMC has managed to gain its ground in the Matua-dominated areas.