2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP
A mass defection of elected representatives from West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took place five days after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared, with two MLAs, 56 municipal councillors and three rural body representatives switching camps. A Left legislator, too, joined the BJP in the same event.
The BJP won 18 and the Trinamool 22 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won two and the TMC, 34, in 2014.
BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.
With most of the councillors switching their political affiliation, three municipalities — Kanchrapara, Halishahar, and Naihati — will be now be controlled by the BJP. Currently, TMC controls these urban bodies.
The party has also gained the support of the majority of the corporators at Bhatpara municipality, where a no-confidence motion will be brought in soon, BJP MP Arjun Singh said.
Until now, not a single civic body was under the control of the BJP.
“People are fleeing the TMC to join the BJP. Many more will join in the coming weeks,” Mukul Roy said at a press conference at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. A BJP leader who asked not to be named claimed at least six more TMC MLAs would switch to the BJP next week.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections.
“We want her [Mamata Banerjee] government to continue till 2021, but if it falls due to her doings, then we cannot help it,” BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya said.
Of Tuesday’s defectors, while Subhranshu continued in TMC despite his father joining BJP in November 2017, Bhattacharya won in 2016 on a Congress ticket but joined the TMC last year.
“TMC leader Derek [O’Brien] said that not a single corporator would desert TMC for BJP. Today, there are more than 50. There are three MLAs. Just like we had a seven-phase elections, there will be a seven-phase joining from TMC in the coming months,” added Vijayvargiya.
Vijayvargiya said that he could not rule out the Mamata Banerjee government losing majority in the state assembly before the scheduled elections in 2021.
“We want to win Bengal through the 2021 assembly elections. Our best wishes are with Mamata Banerjee till then. But if her MLAs start deserting the party in such numbers, we should not be blamed [for early fall of the government].”
State food minister Jyoti Priya Mullick, who is also the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit chief, tried to put up a brave face. “We were once reduced to a party of one MP [in 2004], from where we rose to a 19-MP strong party [in 2009]. We are Mamata Banerjee’s army and under her leadership all damages will be reversed.”
Refuting allegations that the party was indulging in horse trading, BJP leader Roy, who was the convener of the party’s Bengal Lok Sabha election management committee, said, “If anybody indulged in horse trading, it is Mamata Banerjee. How else did the MLAs, who won on Congress tickets, become TMC’s?”
Elections in more than half of Bengal’s civic bodies are due in 2020.
A total of eight leaders from other parties joined the BJP in the run up to the LS polls in Bengal. They were Anupam Hazra and Saumitra Khan (MPs from TMC), TMC MLA Arjun Singh and TMC youth wing leaders Nishith Pramanik and Sankudeb Panda, CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, Congress MLAs Dulal Bar and Sudip Mukherjee.
Of these, the party nominated Hazra, Khan, Singh, Pramanik and Murmu for the elections.
Saumitra Khan, Arjun Singh, Nishith Pramanik and Khagen Murmu won from Bishnupur, Barrackpore, Cooch Behar and Malda North LS constituencies respectively.
Three other leaders who had joined BJP from other parties in 2018 — Humanyun Kabir, Mafuza Khatun and Nilanjan Roy — were also given Lok Sabha tickets but they lost.