BJP leaders’ letter to ECI sets off intra-party conflict in Bengal’s Barasat Lok Sabha seat

Published : Mar 29, 2024 21:03 IST - 5 MINS READ

The BJP has left itself open for attacks from opposing parties after writing to the ECI, requesting an investigation into Swapan Majumder’s criminal activities.

The BJP has left itself open for attacks from opposing parties after writing to the ECI, requesting an investigation into Swapan Majumder’s criminal activities. | Photo Credit: Facebook/Swapan Majumder

The missive, signed by Subhash Chandra Roy and Utpala Biswas, highlights grave concerns surrounding Swapan Majumder’s candidacy.

It is not uncommon during election time for one political party to complain to the Election Commission of India (ECI) against a rival party, but when members of a party complain to the ECI against its own candidate, it not only reflects the state of disarray within that particular section of the party but also practically does half the work for its rivals. On March 28, representatives of the BJP wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner of India, bringing to his attention “some serious concerns” regarding the candidature of Swapan Majumder, the BJP candidate for the West Bengal’s Barasat Lok Sabha constituency. The development has been seen as a setback for the saffron party in Barasat ahead of the general election and has given the ruling Trinamool Congress a new tool to attack it with.

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The letter to the ECI, written by BJP leaders Subhash Chandra Roy and Utpala Biswas raises a number of serious allegations against the party’s candidate, ranging from his conviction in a narcotics case in 2017 to alleged misrepresentation of his assets in his affidavit. The candidacy of Majumder, BJP’s sitting MLA from Bangaon Dakshin, has not gone down well with the BJP’s district leadership, which has questioned his suitability as a candidate.

The letter to the ECI states: “It has come to our attention that Majumder declared in the affidavit of WBSA [West Bengal State Assembly] election 2021 that he is a convicted criminal in a drug offence case under Section 21(C) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. There is suspicion that he knowingly omitted crucial information in his affidavit submitted to the Election Commission of India. It is imperative to investigate whether he concealed any details which would be in violation of the Indian Penal Code (Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita). The seizure of a significant quantity of illegal morphine in the case history raises serious concerns about his suitability as a candidate.”

Investigation into criminal activities

Majumder, who claimed he had been framed in the narcotics case, was sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment by a sessions court in Assam and had to spend nine months behind bars before being granted bail. Referring to the “severe and serious” court sentence against him, the letter said, “Given the serious nature of these allegations and their implications for the democratic process, we request the immediate formation of a suo moto fact-finding committee to investigate these matters. Candidates with backgrounds involving drug peddling and other criminal activities pose a significant threat to the sanctity of Indian democracy, and it is imperative that the Election Commission takes swift and decisive action to uphold electoral integrity.”

The letter also pointed out that according to the affidavit from the 2021 West Bengal State Assembly election, Majumder had claimed his educational qualification was up to “class eight”. “We suspect that this certificate may have been fraudulently obtained. Any misrepresentation in the affidavit constitutes a violation of the Indian Penal Code (Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita).” The letter also alleged that Majumder may have “misrepresented his immovable and movable properties including gold jewellery. “We urge the Election Commission to thoroughly scrutinize his assets declaration including his newly constructed big bungalow and source of income to ensure transparency and integrity in,” the letter stated.

Subhas Chandra Roy, one of the signatories in the letter to the ECI, told the media, “I have no personal grievance against Majumder, but from whatever little we know of him, and what we have got to know from the media, he is not a suitable candidate. We are also aware that it is not uncommon for someone unsuitable to be selected as a candidate in elections... We are trying to establish a constructive evaluating system.”

The other signatory, Utpala Biswas went on to threaten Majumder by saying the BJP would not campaign for him. “When the BJP had no organisation here, then someone as distinguished as P.C. Sorcar (famous magician) had stood for elections in Barasat with a BJP ticket... In a high-voltage constituency like this, workers for a national party like the BJP cannot campaign for such a person,” said Biswas.

Barasat in West Bengal

Barasat, in North 24 Paraganas has been a Trinamool stronghold since 2009, with Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar winning the Lok Sabha seat three times on the trot. In the 2021 Assembly election too, Trinamool won all the seven Assembly seats that fall under the Lok Sabha constituency—viz Habra, Ashoknagar, Rajarhat New Town, Bidhannagar, Madhyamgram, Barasat, and Deganga.

A BJP source in Barasat told Frontline that this time the saffron party was hoping to fare better, mainly due to the strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the State’s ruling party. “At a time like this, it was important to have a good candidate, and the district leadership had considered four names—Mrinal Debnath, Supravat Barman, Rupesh Sarkar, and Madhu Chanda Kar. Majumder was never acceptable to the BJP workers and supporters of Barasat. It will be difficult to campaign for a person who has been labelled a drug pedlar,” the source said. Though he agreed that the letter to the ECI would embarrass the party, it would, nevertheless, drive home a message to the State and Central leadership.

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Majumder claimed that it was a conspiracy by Trinamool and that those who were protesting against his candidacy were “made drunk” by Trinamool and forced to make the allegations. The Trinamool was not slow to grab another easy opportunity to attack its closest political rival. Reacting to his allegation, Trinamool leader Jay Prakash Majumdar said, “Can he (Majumder) deny that he is a drug dealer? That he was jailed in Assam on a narcotics case? The allegations have come from the BJP itself, he cannot hope to divert the situation by putting the blame on Trinamool.”

Barasat was not expected to be an easy fight for the BJP, but now with its own party members standing staunchly against its candidate, the situation has become even tougher for the saffron party.

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