New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s plan to hurt the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal has suffered a serious setback in the past one month after a majority of the TMC councillors, who had joined the BJP, decided to desert their new party and go back to the TMC.

After the results of the May 2019 elections were declared, TMC councillors from at least six municipalities—Noapara, Bhatpara, Halisahar, Bongaon, Kanchrapara, Haringhata of North 24 Parganas and Nadia district—had joined the BJP. However, in the last one month, TMC councillors from four of these six municipalities, who had joined the BJP, have now gone back to the TMC. These councillors are from Halisahar, Bongaon, Kanchrapara and Haringhata municipalities. As of now, former TMC councillors from only two municipalities, Noapara and Bhatpara, are still with the BJP.

In the latest development on Thursday, four TMC councillors from Bongaon municipality, who had taken the membership of BJP in June by joining the party at its Delhi office in Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg in the presence of West Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya and senior BJP leader Mukul Roy, rejoined the TMC in Kolkata in the presence of senior TMC leaders, including the Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim.

This development has dashed the BJP’s hope to establish its rule in the 22-member Bongaon municipality as now it has been reduced to seven members.

Incidentally, a trust vote was brought by the BJP councillors, who included those from TMC who had joined the BJP, against the sitting TMC chairman, but it could not happen on 16 June due to TMC leaders not allowing the voting to take place. After this, the BJP had approached the Calcutta High Court for intervention. With the hearing in this matter has already concluded, the HC had reserved its order in the case and it was expected that it would be announced soon. But after the latest development, the order of the court, even if it comes in favour of the BJP or even if the court calls for a voting, will not help the  BJP in Bongaon as now the TMC has at least 14 councillors.

District level BJP office bearers, in these municipalities, told The Sunday Guardian that they had repeatedly approached the senior leadership to apprise them of the imminent TMC exodus, but the top leadership adopted a laid-back approach.

A BJP functionary from North 24 Parganas said, “We tried hard to persuade these councillors not to go back, but these councillors were repeatedly being threatened not only by the TMC workers, but also by the police and administration. They were being threatened with false cases like gold smuggling. We had informed our senior leaders at the state level, but only little or no help was received from them.”

A BJP functionary from Haringhata said that when he told one of the top state leaders of the BJP about councillors expressing their intention to go back to the TMC, he said: “Let them go if they want to,” which shows the callous attitude of the state leadership, the party functionary claimed to The Sunday Guardian.

Sources in the BJP have said that the internal conflict within the BJP at the state level in Bengal has not gone unnoticed by the lower ranks of the party workers and many believe that these councillors, who had come with the hope of getting a green pasture in the BJP, soon realised that the party is yet to settle their own problems and therefore returned. “These TMC leaders had joined the BJP thinking that with the party coming to power at the Centre and winning 18 Lok Sabha seats in the state, they would be able to enjoy some kind of influence. They were anticipating that the Mamata Banerjee government would fall soon. However, the state leadership could not capitalise on the gains of May 2019 and ever since the results came out, the state leaders are more focused on how to damage each other rather than countering Mamata Banerjee. With these TMC leaders left to fend for themselves, they realised that it was better if they went back to TMC,” an RSS functionary said.

One of the close aides of a councillor who went back to the BJP said that the councillor was regularly being pressurised by the state government machinery to leave the BJP. “On Wednesday night, he got a call from a police official who gave him a friendly advice that if he does not come back, his business will suffer, and a case of indulging in gold smuggling will be filed against him. This councillor approached the state BJP leader for assistance, but got no assurance. He was left with no option but to go back,” the aide said.

A few days ago, Mukul Roy had announced that 107 TMC MLAs were in touch with him who, he claimed, wanted to join the BJP. However, with Roy not being able to stop the exodus of these councillors, questions are being raised on the veracity of his claim.

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