At least 40 other senior leaders quit TMC to join BJP.

 

NEW DELHI: A few months ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections in West Bengal, a former close aide of Mamata Banerjee and the architect of the Nandigram movement that brought her to power in the state in 2011, Suvendu Adhikari, along with at least 40 other senior Trinamool Congress leaders joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday. According to political observers, this is the single biggest blow to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in nearly a decade that it has been ruling the state.

Adhikari joined the BJP on Saturday in his stronghold East Medinipur in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Adhikari switching to the BJP is being seen as a big positive for the BJP right ahead of the elections, as he wields major influence over at least 50 Assembly constituencies and has a huge mass base in at least five districts—East Medinipur, West Medinipur, Purulia, Jhargram and Malda, amongst others.

Adhikari is also considered to be a leader connected to the ground, who has worked for his erstwhile party, the TMC at the booth level. Therefore, he is being looked at as someone who will be instrumental in weakening the TMC in those districts.

Along with Adhikari, 10 other sitting MLAs of the West Bengal Assembly, one MP and several other senior and mid level TMC leaders joined the BJP, at the massive rally addressed by Amit Shah.

Amongst the 10 MLAs who joined the BJP on Saturday, six are from the ruling TMC while the other four have switched sides from the CPM.

The list of sitting TMC MLAs who joined the BJP includes Saikat Panja, MLA from Purulia; Silbhadra Datta, MLA from Barrackpore; Banasri Maity, MLA from Kanthi; Biswajit Kundu, MLA from Kalna; Dipali Biswas, MLA from Malda’s Gajole; and Sukra Munda, MLA from Jalpaiguri’s Nagrakata.

The other sitting MLAs who joined the BJP are CPM MLA from Haldia, Tapasi Mondal; CPI MLA from Tamluk, Ashok Dinda; and Congress’ Purulia MLA, Sudip Mukherjee.

One sitting Lok Sabha member from the TMC, Sunil Mondol also joined the BJP on Saturday. Mondol is MP from Purba Burdwan.

Other senior TMC leaders who joined the BJP on Saturday along with Suvendu Adhikari include former TMC MP Dasrath Tirkey; ex-minister of the West Bengal government, Shayamaprasad Mukherjee; and former TMC MLA, Satyen Roy; TMC’s minority cell’s general secretary, Kabirul Islam, who had quit the party on Friday; Colonel (retd) Diptangshu Chowdhury who was the chairman of the South Bengal State Transport Corporation and is a close aide of Suvendu Adhikari.

Apart from this, a host of other district level and senior TMC functionaries joined the BJP on Saturday. Some of those who joined the BJP from TMC are Samiran Mishra, Nityanand Chatterjee, Kartik Pal, Akashdeep Singh, Sukumar Das, Ranjan Vaidya, Dev Mohapatra and Sukumar Das amongst many others.

The TMC leaders who have joined the BJP are considered to be close to Suvendu Adhikari. They say that they will support Adhikari in all circumstances and that Adhikari has been mistreated by the TMC and they could not withstand the treatment that was being meted out to him by the senior leadership of the TMC.

Soon after joining the BJP, Suvendu took pot-shots at both Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee. While addressing a huge sea of crowd at the College Ground in East Medinipur, Suvendu Adhikari said, “Didi will now come second here in Bengal. From tomorrow itself every day for 16 hours you will see me work for the BJP. I will go to every booth and whenever the party will ask me to do any work for the party, I will do it, even if this means putting up flags for the party.”

He also addressed Amit Shah as his “elder brother” and said, “When I was affected with Covid-19, none from the erstwhile party for whom I have given my blood and sweat called me to check upon me. But it was Amit Shah who called me twice to enquire about my health.”

Just before ending his speech, Suvendu attacked Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and “heir apparent”, Abhishek Banerjee, by giving a clarion call of sorts: “Tolabaaj bhaipo hatao (remove the bribe-taking nephew).”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also hit out at Mamata Banerjee’s nephew while addressing the rally from East Medinipur by saying, “Can you not see the future of millions of youths who need jobs? You can only see your nephew and want to make him the Chief Minister.”

He also attacked Mamata Banerjee by saying, “Didi (Mamata Banerjee), you are talking of switching sides. Didn’t you leave the Congress to form the TMC? Wasn’t it changing allegiance? Now you are accusing Suvendu-bhai of changing sides. Thousands of people are waiting to join the BJP. Just wait and watch.”

Suvendu Adhikari, who has quit as TMC MLA and from TMC earlier this week, also wrote an open letter to the people explaining why he decided to leave the party.

In his open letter he also wrote about the role of political consultant Prashant Kishor and indirectly called him an outsider who had to be hired by the party to mend its political fortunes.

It is not secret that Adhikari and Prashant Kishor, who has been hired by the TMC as Mamata Banerjee’s and her party’s political tutor, were having differences for a very long time. The differences between Kishor and other party members kept growing and according to several TMC members who have either quit or are on the fence have openly or in closed door meeting criticised the role that Prashant Kishor was playing in the party.

TMC MP, Sunil Mondol, who on Saturday joined the BJP has been criticising Kishor for a very long time. He had earlier said, “The young kids from I-PAC have been giving all the wrong reports to Mamata Banerjee. They are taking money and sending clean reports about several TMC leaders to the top. I think if Prashant Kishor did not come, the current condition of the party would not have happened.”

Even another dissident MLA, Silbhadra Dutta also criticised Kishor and his role in the party earlier before joining the BJP on Saturday. He had said, “Who is Prashant Kishor? What is his locus standi in the party? Why should I listen to him? If I had any differences with the party, the party leadership should discuss it with me and not send people from Prashant Kishor’s team to discuss. I don’t consider him as my leader, I considered Mamata Banerjee as my leader.”

However, the TMC says that it is not affected by the mass exodus and claims that those who have left were a burden on the party and that it is good that they have gone to BJP.

Saugato Roy, senior TMC leader and MP speaking to The Sunday Guardian said, “We are not shocked, we were aware of this. It is a relief that they have gone now and we can now strategize for ourselves freely. We will fill this vacuum, there is no doubt about it.”

On asking about the role of Prashant Kishor and whether he should be blamed for the mass exodus, Roy said, “Prashant Kishor cannot be dragged into this. I have no further comments.”

Meanwhile, the BJP says that this is just the beginning of the exodus from the TMC, and that they are ready to take anybody with a clean record who wishes to be a part of the development of “Sonar Bangla”.

This major blow has come to the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC at a time when Amit Shah is visiting the state for two days. Shah is in Bengal to hold preparatory meetings on the 2021 Assembly elections. He is also slated to visit Bolpur-Shantiniketan on Sunday where he will take part in multiple programs and address a rally in Birbhum district.