A West Bengal minister quit the ruling Trinamool Congress on Thursday to join the BJP, leaving beleaguered chief minister Mamata Banerjee struggling to keep her flock together under dark clouds of the Saradha scam.
The Trinamool promptly expelled Manjulkrishna Thakur, who was the refugee rehabilitation minister in Mamata’s cabinet till the moment he appeared in a press conference to announce his decision.
This is the first instance in Bengal when an incumbent minister to quit and join the opposition.
His son Subrata Thakur – also a politician – too joined the saffron party, which has already hinted that many Trinamool leaders were ready to switch over.
State BJP president Rahul Sinha termed the development as a “historic moment” and announced that “this is the beginning of the end of Trinamool Congress.”
The defection came within days of the CBI summoning the Trinamool’s second-in-command and key Mamata aide Mukul Roy for questioning in the Saradha scam, which defrauded thousands of small investors close to Rs 2,500 crore.
The probe into the scam has already seen a state minister, two MPs and a party vice-president behind bars while others are being grilled by central agencies. Opposition parties claim it is only a matter of time before Mamata Banerjee is called for questioning.
Manjulkrishna Thakur said as much about the scam.
“I could not work in Trinamool Congress. You all know the situation in that party now due to many factors including (the) Saradha scam. There is no room for good persons in Trinamool Congress,” he said.
BJP sources claimed that 40 to 50 ministers, MLAs and MPs from Trinamool are ready to pack up and cross over.
“We are waiting for a situation when Mukul Roy will be behind bars, and it is evident that the investigating agency will be targeting the chief minister herself. In short, the entire party will be on its knees,” said a senior BJP leader based in Delhi.
As an urgent fire-fighting measure, the chief minister is understood to have recently discussed with her close aides the possibility of early assembly polls, due in 2016.
In a recent meeting with party workers, Mamata had also stated that those who wanted to leave the party are welcome to do so, indicating the inevitability of the situation.