Kolkata: Two first-time BJP MPs, who also contested and won the Assembly election in West Bengal, have not taken their oath as MLAs apparently in fear of losing their berths in the Lok Sabha. They are Nishith Pramanik and Jagannath Sarkar.
Their unexpected move, that has raised eyebrows within the BJP, came at a time chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s protege-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari has emerged as a strong contender for the post of the Leader of the Opposition, racing ahead of another frontrunner, Mukul Roy, the national vice-president of the party.
While Mr Pramanik is an MP of Cooch Behar in North Bengal, Mr Sarkar is an MP of Ranaghat in Nadia. Fielded along with three other MPs — Babul Supriyo, a Union minister, Locket Chatterjee and Swapan Dasgupta — by their party in the Assembly polls, Mr Pramanik won from Dinhata in the district and Mr Sarkar was elected at Santipur while the other three lost.
They were, however, conspicuous by their absence at the oath-taking ceremony for MLAs in the Assembly on May 7, unlike most of the 77 winning candidates of their party. This immediately fuelled speculation about their intentions. Sources said the two have requested the party’s leadership to allow them to continue as Lok Sabha MPs than as MLAs.
The party has not taken a final decision on them yet, as both have six months’ time to choose one of the two posts. If Mr Pramanik and Mr Sarkar opt to stay as MPs, the BJP’s tally of MLAs will go down to 75 from 77, with byelections being held for their Assembly seats.
Similarly, if they choose to take the oath as MLAs later, the BJP’s tally of MPs in the state will decrease from 18 to 16, with their Lok Sabha seats up for byelections too.
Mr Suvendu Adhikari, meanwhile, appears to be the BJP’s favourite face as Leader of the Opposition to take on the Trinamul Congress supremo in the Assembly. The biggest advantage that has put Mr Adhikari ahead of Mr Roy in the competition for the post is his success as a “giant killer” in defeating the TMC chief at Nandigram, although by a narrow margin.
Known for his fierce speech, Mr Adhikari also has been credited with more years of experience in serving as an MLA, at least twice, than Mr Roy, who has become an MLA for the first time in his life by winning from Krishnanagar North in Nadia. Besides, his past links with the RSS in school life and the support of at least 50 BJP MLAs for him are seen as his plus points, according to sources.
On the other hand, Mr Roy, who was initially considered a suitable face for the post with the support of a section of BJP central leaders, met a senior TMC leader in the Assembly on May 7 but skipped the first meeting of the newly elected MLAs in the Assembly and claimed that he would make his stand clear later.
This instantly triggered speculation about his possible return to the TMC. Mr Roy however tweeted on Saturday: “My fight would continue as a soldier of BJP to restore democracy in our state. I would request everyone to put the concoctions and conjectures to rest. I am resolute in my political path.”
Judging the situation, the BJP parliamentary board has appointed two central observers — Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav — for the election of Leader of the Opposition in the state.