By Tirthankar Mitra
At a time when panchayat elections are inching closer in West Bengal, indiscipline is rife in state BJP, be it at the leadership level or among the rank and file. Posters seeking whereabouts of Durgapur-Asansol MP, Surinder Singh Ahluwalia in his constituency is a case in point.
It came in the wake of a purported letter of former state general secretary and core committee member Sayantan Basu lambasting party leadership. The saffron camp leadership found itself in an embarrassing situation just as it was about to chalk out the blue print of its panchayat poll campaign plans.
The twin political hiccups tarnishing the image of the principal Opposition party in the state Assembly could not have come at a worse time for the state’s saffron camp. For the BJP leaders were going hammer and tongs at the ruling Trinamool on issues like cash for teachers’ jobs and the raids of central probe agencies in the homes some of the senior Trinamool Congress leaders.
Be it poll promises or campaign programme, posters are a boon to political parties though the owners of the houses on whose walls they are pasted look upon them as pock marks. Of course, there is another variety put up by men in uniform about fugitives from law or by friends and relatives of a missing person.
But posters took passersby by surprise in some areas of Durgapur-Asansol parliamentary constituency of West Bengal. Instead of seeking the whereabouts of a person running away from the law or a missing relation, it enquires about the local BJP Member of Parliament, Surinder Singh Ahluwalia.
The posters put up by some Ahluwalia’s own partymen are a clear pointer to their dissent at his absence. But as one reads between the lines there is more to it.
Not many stalwart leaders including two former prime ministers Indira Gandhi or Atal Behari Vajpayee can be recalled to be seen criss crossing their respective constituencies Raebareli and Lucknow when it was not a time for campaigning. Party activists interacted with the electorate while the MPs made their presence felt in the parliamentary sessions when they were not pouring over game plans to take their outfits ahead of their political rivals.
Ahluwalia’s detractors are unaware that they are asking for the moon if they expect him to stay put in his constituency after his electoral triumph. Even the disbursal of his MPLAD funds are decided by his party’s top brass with the MP merely signing on the dotted lines
Hereby comes in the open a difference between the Left and BJP, both calling themselves a cadre based party. Such postering is unheard of in a constituency represented by Left leader.
If the cause of the grassroot workers resentment against the man at the apex runs too deep in the Burdwan-Durgapur constituency, there is a simpler explanation to it. It is a throwback to the resentment of the men at the deck harbour for the .man at the helm.
But the discipline of a ship being stricter than the saffron camp, the vessel’s passengers witness no untoward incident during a voyage. But the resentment against Ahluwalia is not unique.
Trinamool Congress MP Shatrughan Sinha had similar posters seeking his location at Asansol which he represents. If one walks down memory lane, it may be recalled Amitabh Bachchan, the Congress MP who needs no introduction had almost identical posters put up at Allahabad seeking his whereabouts when he was away facing the cameras in film sets after having defeated HN Bahuguna in 1984 Lok Sabha election cashing on a sympathy wave of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Down the decades these posters which have brought some of tbe leaders in the news for the wrong reasons are manifestation of the entrenched sparring in politics of the area. In sum, the people’s representative has the job of voicing his voters woes and seek redress while those down the ladder have to ensure that the clock of development keeps ticking.
The MP is the last person who can be issued a *lookout notice” by some local leaders. As and when it happens and the party leadership overlooks rather than oversees it, a recipe for greater indiscipline is being scripted.
A studied silence on the part of the leadership is feeding resentment against Ahluwalia. It would do the BJP no good in the panchayat polls in this area
Incidentally, Ahluwalia should take note that there are MPs from this state who are regular visitors to their constituencies. Adhir Chowdhury, Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Sougata Roy feature prominently in this list. (IPA Service)