Making a feverish pitch for a spectacular show in West Bengal, the BJP has not battled an eyelid in fielding defectors from other parties in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, while ten per cent of its nominees are even non-Bengalis.
The Bharatiya Janata Party candidates in at least 10 of the state’s 42 constituencies have been imported from other parties, or are fresh recruits into the saffron fold.
State BJP President Dilip Ghosh was candid enough in admitting that the party – now in an expansion mode – has to rely on new recruits.
“We have expanded over the last three years. As it happens with a fast-growing party, many have joined our fold in the last two or three years. Many others are joining now, from other parties. Our leadership has given tickets to them after considering their suitability,” he said.
The list of political turncoats welcomed with the party ticket includes two sitting MPs from state’s ruling Trinamool Congress.
Visva Bharati University Assistant Professor Anupam Hazra, a member of the outgoing Lok Sabha from Bolpur, is in the fray from Jadavpur after crossing over to the BJP following his expulsion from the Trinamool for “anti-party activities”.
Another former Trinamool MP Saumitra Khan secured the saffron party’s nomination from his old constituency Bishnupur though he is barred from entering the district for six weeks by the Calcutta High Court due to ongoing criminal cases against him.
Khan, was, however, allowed to file his nomination by the court, but the bar on his entry into most areas of the constituency remained, forcing his wife to do the campaigning on his behalf.
Arjun Singh, a Trinamool ‘strongman’ and MLA from Bhatpara, crossed over to the BJP days after the party leadership turned down his plea for being nominated as a candidate from Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat. The saffron party promptly made him its candidate from Barrackpore to oppose former Union Minister Dinesh Trivedi.
In North Bengal’s Cooch Behar, the saffron party gave the poll ticket to Nisith Pramanik, a former Trinamool youth leader against whom, at one time, BJP workers had a litany of complaints.
Again Khagen Murmu, a three-term CPI-M MLA, joined BJP and became its candidate from Malda North.
Formerly a two-time CPI-M lawmaker, Mafuja Khatun’s nomination from Jangipur in Murshidabad district made her the only Muslim woman candidate nominated by the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In Jangipur’s neighbouring constituency Murshaidabad, the BJP chose another turncoat – Humayun Kabir, a former minister in the Trinamool government, who came into the BJP fold last year.
Even in the high-profile constituency of Diamond Harbour, from where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and perceived heir Abhishek Banerjee is in the race for Trinamool, the BJP has opted for Nilanjan Roy, a Congress deserter.
Though he is not a turncoat, BJP candidate from Darjeeling Raju Singh Bisht was given the tag of “outsider” by his opponents throughout the poll campaign. An RSS man, the Manipur-born Bisht is an entrepreneur who resides in Delhi.
From Ghatal in West Midnapore district, the BJP nominee is retired IPS officer Bharati Ghosh – once known for her proximity to Chief Minister Banerjee and against whom the BJP had a long list of complaints when she was the district police chief. Ghosh was declared a party candidate only days after she pitched her lot with the BJP.
She took on Trinamool candidate and leading Bengali film hero Deepak Adhikari (Dev), the sitting MP.
Of the BJP candidates – Bisht, Arjun Singh, and John Barla (Alipurduar) – are Hindi-speaking, while Union Minister S.S. Ahluwalia (Burdwan-Durgapur) is a Sikh who is as much adept in Bengali as he is in Hindi and Punjabi.