By Tirthankar Mitra
Integrity of the state is one of the most sensitive issues in West Bengal politics. Yet after the issue of a separate state out of West Bengal has been raised by some BJP legislators earlier, when a resolution was passed in the state Assembly recently against another state being carved out of already partitioned West Bengal, these MLAs found their leadership speaking against them.
It is no secret that the state BJP has been a divided house on the partition issue. Till date, the party leadership had dismissed the demand of some its local leaders for a portion of north Bengal being made a separate state as “a few divergent voices”.
But the Assembly witnessing differences in the opinion with the principal Opposition party coming out in the open focuses on the fissures in the BJP months before the rural polls. Taking a long-term view, the fissures can turn into cracks as the 2024 Lok Sabha election is inching closer.
Kurseong BJP legislator Bishnu Prasad Sharma “unwittingly” put his party on a sticky wicket when he sought a referendum on Gorkhaland issue with the Election Commission’s nod. Sharma’s proposal came in the wake of the resolution moved by the ruling Trinamool Congress stating that any attempt to divide the state of West Bengal by BJP leadership would be defeated.
Springing to his party’s aid, leader of the Opposition, Suvendu Adhikari questioned the rationale behind introducing such a motion which BJP does not subscribe to. But by then, intra-party difference has come out in the open.
The BJP leadership made it clear that it does not support the demand for a separate state. But the leader of the Opposition pointed out that years of deprivation of north Bengal, western part of the state and Sundarbans lie at the root of separation demand if the difference in the allocation of funds between these regions and the rest of the state is anything to go by.
But the speeches of Sharma and in his support Niraj Jimba, both BJP MLAs from. North Bengal did not quite gel with Adhikari’s contention. There is no denying of the differences within state BJP.
The partition has been a burning issue ever since the birth of West Bengal after East Pakistan was carved out of what was Bengal then..The seemingly unending stream of refugees who turned empty mansions and vast uninhabited tracts of land into colonies of hutments was the bane of the state for decades.
While the Congress governments of the day tried to provide for this struggling .mass of humanity, these men and women still to strike roots in a new and unfamiliar homeland became the foot soldiers of the Opposition parties, the Left,. PSP and Jan Sangh. The BJP which considers Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, the Jan Sangh stalwart as it’s icon is only too aware any sign of its support to another partition would backfire against it.
After all, Mookherjee is credited with standing in the way Pakistan getting a greater share of Bengal. In fact, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the principal proponent of Pakistan bemoaning that he has been given “a moth eaten Pakistan” lends credence to Mookherjee’s efforts.
Sharma and Jimba may be unaware of this. Partition of Bengal to them may very well be forgotten chapters of ancient history. Moreover, they are seeing no further than their nose as they voice the demand for Gorkhaland. Seeing a few projects in their constituencies not getting off the ground is the driving force of their demand.
But it is a long term game plan for their leaders. For Adhikari, state BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar or his predecessor, Dilip Ghosh making any sign of assent to the demand for a separate state will amount to writing their political obituaries.
But Sharma and Jimba cannot be reined in. For the duo represent a significant portion of the vote bank of the hills though their support for Gorkhaland is a chink in the saffron armour. State BJP leadership will not try to paper over the cracks in a hurry. For it would amount to hauling up the two legislators holding views differing from party leadership.
The BJP prides itself to be a party with a difference. But its actions against the MLAs whose views are not in agreement with the party leadership will not differ from other political outfits from which the saffron camp seeks to distance itself. It speaks volumes about BJP’s adherence to principles. With rural polls and Lok Sabha elections looming larger, the leaders from the hills have to be kept in good humour.
The last thing the state saffron leadership will do is to ask discordant voices to be silent. With defection diminishing the number of MLAs, any disciplinary action against the Sharma and Jimba is not in the cards now or in near future.
For any attempt to pull the duo over the coals will split the ranks of the activists in the hills on election eve. And this course of action will certainly invite a rap on the knuckles from the central leadership.
The BJP has emerged as the principal Opposition party decimating the Left and the Congress. Setting aside intra-party differences, the saffron camp’s priority is to take on the ruling Trinamool unitedly in the coming elections; party discipline can wait, a bid for saffron supremacy in West Bengal cannot. (IPA Service)