Monday, Aug 15, 2022
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Bengal: Banners With Photos Of Vajpayee, Advani Seek Votes For Didi In Siliguri

The banners which created a political stir were seen in dozens across the town, particularly in the locality of the local BJP MLA, Shankar Ghosh and thus it became a talking point.

Banners with Vajpayee, Advani’s photo seek votes for Didi in West Bengal's Siliguri
Banners with Vajpayee, Advani’s photo seek votes for Didi in West Bengal's Siliguri

Purono BJP Dichchhe Daak, Siliguri-te Ebar Didi-e Thak.”

This slogan, roughly meaning, ‘old BJP calls upon people to let Didi keep Siliguri this time,’ has created a political stir in the bustling north Bengal town of Siliguri, the biggest business centre of the state after Kolkata and one of the most important municipal corporations in Bengal where elections are scheduled on February 12.

Curiously, the banners had photos of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwarts of the bygone era – late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former home minister, Lal Krishna Advani, perhaps to signify the sentiments of ‘BJP old-timers.’ The banners also had a photo of the late Tapan Sikdar, a former state unit president who served as a junior minister in Vajpayee’s cabinet.  

The banners were seen in dozens across the town, and particularly in the locality of the local BJP MLA, Shankar Ghosh, and became a talking point. The banners also called for “Gaddar hathao, BJP bachaao”, or expunge the traitors and save the BJP.

A number of such banners were found hanging from the walls of Madhav Bhavan, the headquarters of the north Bengal chapter of Sewa Bharati, the social work wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

While the local BJP MLA has alleged that this is the handiwork of the state’s ruling party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), in their attempt to confuse BJP workers and the voters, political observers feel it may well reflect in the internal turbulence that has plagued the BJP not only in Siliguri but almost across the state.

A section of veteran BJP organisers of various ranks have rebelled, alleging that newcomers got more importance.

Siliguri has remained a Left bastion for years, largely due to the influence of one person, former municipal and urban affairs minister of the Left Front period, Asoke Bhattacharya. After winning four times on a row since 1991, Bhattacharya lost in the watershed 2011 election but regained the seat in 2016. By 2015, he had also become the mayor of Siliguri.

However, the switch of camp of one of his right-hand-man, Shankar Ghosh, from the CPI(M) to the BJP, just ahead of the 2021 assembly elections, ensured a massive shift in traditional left votes towards the BJP. Shankar, who had a tattoo of communist icon Che Guevara on his left arm, won the seat contesting on a BJP ticket, while Bhattacharya came third.

A pained Bhattacharya announced he wouldn’t contest elections any more. However, he came out of his electoral retirement in January and agreed to contest the civic polls after former CPI(M) chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called him up and convinced him to fight for the sake of the party.

Now, it a tri-corner contest, Siliguri is expected to see a close fight. The BJP’s chances can be spoilt if the Left manages to recover a section of its traditional votes it lost to the BJP in the assembly elections. The TMC has projected former north Bengal development minister, Gautam Deb, who lost from Siliguri’s neighbouring Dabgram-Fulbari constituency in the assembly elections, for Siliguri’s top job.

“It’s the handiwork of the TMC. No BJP old-timer will be so spineless to put up banners involving Vajpayee and Advani’s photos in the dark of the night,” Shankar Ghosh said.

The TMC’s Bedabrata Dutta has rubbished the charges. “Mamata Banerjee’s party doesn’t need to indulge in such petty politics,” he said. 

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