The 57-year-old former Bengal BJP chief is the candidate from Habra which falls under the Barasat Lok Sabha constituency of North 24 Pargana district
Clad in his signature white half kurta, pyjama and white sneakers, he heads out early in the morning to campaign door-to-door in Bengal’s Habra Assembly.
At a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party didn’t have much of a presence in Bengal, Rahul Sinha was considered a one-man army.
Now, the 57-year-old former Bengal BJP chief is the candidate from Habra which falls under the Barasat Lok Sabha constituency of North 24 Pargana district.
“The people here are tired of the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee government,” says Sinha. “The cut money issue, daily harassment due to corruption and the jungle raj of the TMC have wrecked the lives of citizens of Bengal. Today, they want Shonar Bangla [golden Bengal] and the BJP is the only political party that can bring development in Bengal under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.”
This time, Sinha is taking on TMC heavyweight, incumbent MLA and food supply minister of Bengal Jyotipriya Mallick. The Habra constituency has been a CPI(M) stronghold. From 1977 to 1996 the Communist Party of India (Marxist) ruled the constituency. In the 2001 election, TMC’s Tapati Dutta won from the area however, in the 2006 election CPI(M) once again recaptured the seat and PK Bhattacharya became the MLA.
In the 2011 election, the TMC’s Jyotipriya Mallick won the seat.
Sinha says, “There is no tough fight here. People have made up their mind to vote for the BJP and Modi. I am reaching out to the people and assuring them that when BJP comes to power all the development work will happen. The area has a major issue with water connectivity and my first work would be to solve this issue.”
Sinha, who was considered close to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, is one the longest-serving BJP functionaries in Bengal. He was elected Bengal BJP chief in 2009 and stayed in the post till 2015. That year, he became the BJP national secretary.
He also reportedly played a key role in the BJP forming an alliance with the TMC in the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
“Politics is not static. It is ever changing. Our past alliances were made taking into consideration the prevailing situation. Our enemy was CPI(M) but now our opponent is Mamata Banerjee. We have the prime minister in our corner so there is nothing to worry about.”
But despite being a big name within the BJP, Sinha is yet to win an election. In the 2014 and 2019 general elections, Sinha fought from the Kolkata Uttar (North) Constituency and lost to TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay.
Sinha believes that the key issue today in the state is law and order. “The situation is grave. After the Left regime, the Mamata Banerjee government didn’t really pay attention to development. Now, Bengal has become a den of corruption and violence. BJP leaders are being killed ever day. In the panchayat election, the TMC did not allow us to field candidates and threatened or killed the BJP leaders. The first thing which the BJP government will focus on is improving law and order.”
Sinha cites the examples of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “Earlier Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were synonymous with lawlessness but look at them now. The BJP government under Yogi Adityanath has finished goonda raj. In Bihar, under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, no one can say goonda raj exists. When we come to power in Bengal we will finish goonda raj.”
Sinha claims the police, bureaucrats and local authorities have been ‘compromised’. He further adds that the BJP will focus on changing this corrupt nexus and reforming the system.
A section of the BJP functionaries in Bengal believe Sinha has never been the first choice of the Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In 2015, RSS functionary Dilip Ghosh was brought into the BJP and despite not having much of a political career, was made the BJP Bengal president.
From that time, despite Sinha being made national secretary, rumours of him being sidelined began doing the rounds.
Under Ghosh, the BJP started expanding. His first play was bringing Mukul Roy, the right-hand man of Mamata Banerjee and second-in-command of TMC, into the party fold.
Under the Ghosh-Roy combine, the BJP bagged 18 out of 42 seats in the 2019 general election.
In 2020, Sinha was dropped as the national secretary and given no post, while Roy was made party vice-president and Anupam Hazra, another TMC MP who joined BJP, became the national secretary.
In September, expressing displeasure over his party’s treatment of senior leaders, Sinha in a video message said, “I have given my 40 years to the party. The reward I received is that a TMC leader is coming, so I have to leave. My party has rewarded me, and I have nothing to say. Whatever I have to say, I will say it in the next 10 or 12 days.”
But it seems all is right with Sinha and the BJP now.
Sinha says, “To create Shonar Bangla the expansion of the party is important. This is why we are inviting people from every political party and social sphere to join the BJP. Now you can see how our organisation is expanding. I am a soldier of the BJP and will always work for the party. I am happy to see the party is expanding and now our goal is to finish Mamata’s rule. There is no misunderstanding among the leaders and we all are working towards creating a new Bengal by bringing Ashol Poriborton (real change).”
The result on the 2 May will not only decide the future of Bengal, but also the fate of the old guards like Sinha.
Only time will tell whether the Bengal BJP will be led by the core BJP functionaries or new bloods such as Mukul Roy, Suvendu Adhikari and others who have made the jump from TMC.
The author is a fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre and a freelance journalist who writes on issues of governance and politics. He can be reached at @sayantan_gh