Allegation against Amit Malviya brings divisions within Bengal BJP to the fore

West Bengal RSS activist Santanu Sinha has reportedly accused the state's BJP leaders of providing Malviya and others with 'pretty women'

BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya (photo: @amitmalviya/X)
BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya (photo: @amitmalviya/X)

Yajnaseni Chakraborty

BJP leader and the party's controversial IT cell chief and Bengal joint in-charge Amit Malviya has reportedly issued a legal notice and sought Rs 10 crore in civil damages on Monday against purported West Bengal RSS-BJP activist Santanu Sinha, who alleged that Malviya had "indulged in sexual exploitation of women", according to a statement made by Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate at a press conference, also on Monday.

Sinha, who is related to veteran West Bengal BJP leader and the party's former national secretary Rahul Sinha, and claims to be an RSS activist, first made the allegation in a Facebook post on Friday. In his legal notice, Malviya — whose claims about various nefarious activities by Opposition leaders have been frequently debunked — has sought the removal of Sinha's "false, and derogatory" post from social media.

Bengali media has been circulating a purported screenshot of the post, however, while numerous accounts supporting the state's ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) have amplified the news over the past two days. It is only with Shrinate's press conference to demand Malviya's resignation that the matter has drawn national attention.

On Friday, a reported Facebook post by Sinha said, “Is Amit Malviya still waiting in a five-star hotel in Kolkata for the Bengal leadership to supply him with beautiful women? Has the competition between the Bengal leadership about who will occupy the post of president by providing the most number of pretty women come to an end?

"Please, compete instead to stand by your activists and supporters. Do not compete to occupy the post of president or secretary by providing beautiful women to Amit Malviya or any observers sent from Delhi. Your supporters trusted you and risked their lives. Please do not sit idle.”

The Congress used Sinha's post to attack Malviya. As Shrinate said at the press conference, "RSS member Santanu Sinha, a relative of prominent BJP leader Rahul Sinha, has said Amit Malviya sexually exploited women. This is happening at the BJP party office in Bengal. But there is no investigation against him. He should be removed from office immediately. Otherwise justice will not be served.”

Shrinate also added, "If you remember the IIT-BHU gangrape and the three people involved — Saksham Patel, Kunal Pander, and Anand Chauhan — are all extremely close to the senior leaders of the BJP including PM Modi. This is a pattern, whether it is Kuldeep Singh Sengar, Chinmyanand, Brij Bhushan, or Ankita Bhandari’s murderers, they are all BJP leaders protected by Narendra Modi."

The entire controversy has brought to the fore the trouble brewing within the BJP's Bengal unit over the apparent 'sidelining' of former state unit president and veteran RSS worker Dilip Ghosh (who lost the recent Lok Sabha election) in favour of the brash Suvendu Adhikari, who switched sides from the TMC under apparent threat of being investigated by the CBI and ED on money laundering and other charges, and whom Ghosh's supporters call a 'hired' leader.

Like Ghosh, Rahul Sinha, a long-serving state BJP leader, has found himself more or less relegated to the margins, with his supporter base dwindling. Both men are widely perceived to have built a base for the BJP in the state, practically from scratch. And both are affiliated to the RSS, whose troubled relationship with the BJP is now an open secret.

Ghosh himself has helped fuel speculation with a social media post after the BJP's poor showing in the Lok Sabha election in Bengal, telling the media that "the party has lost seats and it has stopped growing. This is the time when the party should focus on veterans”, in an apparent reference to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when he had led the BJP to victory in 18 seats in Bengal, which tally came down to 12 this time.

A report in India Today quoted Santanu Sinha as saying, "I am not saying Amit Malviya did misconduct with women or exploited them. I have just raised (a) question — will the Bengal leaders keep their posts by supplying women to leaders like Amit Malviya or others? We did see such things happen in Bengal earlier. In 2021, we had cinema actors having no relation with politics, and they were given tickets. But I will stick to my allegations that there are some men in Bengal BJP, who are enjoying posts by supplying women to leaders."

Sinha also told PTI, "My Facebook post was not aimed at anyone. I wanted to question those state BJP leaders who uses dubious means to please their Delhi bosses so that they can hold on to their posts here. My Facebook post has been misconstrued. I stick to my stand on whatever I have said. I have neither withdrawn my post nor am I going to budge before any threat.

"I have sought time to reply to the legal notice. In the meantime if they initiate any civil or criminal proceedings, I will reply accordingly."

Two questions remain. Why did mainstream media wait two days before picking up the story? And why did sources in the Bengal unit of RSS interestingly (and allegedly) tell India Today that Santanu Sinha was and never had been associated with the organisation in any official capacity, while not denying the existence of the post?

West Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar on Monday dubbed the allegations "baseless" and politically motivated. "The allegations against Malviya are baseless and far from the truth. His personal integrity is beyond question. Those levelling baseless allegations are doing it out of political motive," Majumdar told PTI.

About Santanu Sinha, Majumdar said he is in no way associated with the BJP. "Sinha is not associated with the BJP, he is associated with an outfit called Hindu Samhati. So he is in no position to make such claims and allegations," he said.

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