Supporters of the BJP held angry protests outside the party’s election office in Kolkata all day today, even heckling senior leaders Mukul Roy, Arjun Singh and Shiv Prakash, to protest against the fielding of a large number of former Trinamool leaders as BJP candidates. This took place on a day Union minster Amit Shah landed in Kolkata unexpectedly to stay the night on his way from Guwahati to Delhi and BJP chief JP Nadda landed for day-long campaign tomorrow.
Dramatic visuals from outside the BJP’s election office at Hastings showed hundreds of people jostling and shouting and pushing aside barricades in a bid to force their way into the building. A large police contingent was deployed to control the situation. Several BJP offices in the districts were ransacked.
The earliest protestors to show up came in around 2 pm from Panchla in Howrah. They sat on dharna outside the office with banners and posters calling the BJP candidate Mohit Ghati “characterless, drunkard”. They were joined by protestors from Udaynarayanpur, also in Howrah. In the evening, people swarmed in from Raidighi in South 24 Parganas.
Police put up iron barricades outside the entry to the building housing the BJP offices on the fourth, seventh and eighth floor but the crowds repeatedly surged forward, trying to pull them down and forcibly enter the building. The face-off continued till late in the evening.
Also in the evening, agitated BJP workers ransacked the party office at Singur and the BJP’s district headquarters office at Chinsura, both in the Hooghly district.
Singur had seen trouble yesterday too, soon after former Trinamool MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya was named the BJP candidate. The Madhya Pradesh education and health minister, there for organisational meetings, was locked up inside a shop where he was in discussion with party workers.
The police rescued him after four hours of incarceration.
Today, the BJP workers locked the office in the day and vandalised it in the evening.
What could be more worrying for the BJP is the ransacking of its office at Chinsura where the BJP has fielded not a former Trinamool leader but its sitting MP Locket Chatterjee.
Sources say these seats had strong local contenders for tickets. Their supporters have rebelled, threatening to field Independent candidates to defeat official BJP candidates even if it meant Trinamool sails through.
Joy Banerjee, a BJP leader who has not been given a ticket, said, “I am thinking of changing my platform”.
This is unfortunate but a temporary situation, BJP spokesman Samik Bhattacharya was quoted saying.
For the BJP, the candidate list for the state’s 294 seats was expected to be a tough balancing act.
Over the last months, a steady stream of leaders from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress has crossed over to the BJP – leaders who knew they would not get tickets again, the Trinamool had jeered.
The BJP has given many of them tickets but upset its own party workers.
On its list for the third and fourth phase of polls announced Saturday, the BJP named 27 and 38 candidates respectively. The list included several movie stars, eight Trinamool defectors and four sitting MPs, including the party’s two-time Union minister Babul Supriyo.
The list had drawn barbs from Trinamool, which is seeking a third straight term in the state.
The party’s fiery MP Mohua Moitra, known for her outspoken remarks inside the parliament and out, had summed it up. “Loving this slow unfolding of the WB BJP Candidate List soap opera. When “largest global political party” lacks enough faces & strength to announce 294 names in one go for a state it claims it will sweep!” her tweet read.
The mammoth eight-phase elections in Bengal will begin on March 27 and continue till April 29. The votes will be counted on May 2.