‘Defections on the rise,’ claim TMC and BJP in poll-bound West Bengal

Almost every day, the parties are uploading photos and videos of people crossing over from either side on social media.
File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.(PTI)
File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.(PTI)
Updated on Sep 25, 2020 11:26 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Kolkata | ByTanmay Chatterjee | Edited by Sparshita Saxena

With around six months left before West Bengal goes to assembly polls, defection of supporters and local leaders in the districts have increased, claim both ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Almost every day, the parties are circulating photos and videos of people crossing over from either side.

On Thursday, for example, the BJP tweeted about around 100 families from a minority community that supported the TMC at Baduria in the North 24 Parganas district that have now joined the BJP “to strengthen the arms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and overthrow the TMC”.

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The tweet appeared barely two hours after the party posted that more than 100 minority community members, who earlier supported the TMC and the CPI(M), joined the BJP in the South 24 Parganas.

This happened less than a day after the TMC tweeted that the BJP’s West Midnapore district minority cell general secretary Rajdeep Guha, trade union leader Sailendra Singh, president of the BJP’s Kharagpur north unit president Ajay Chattopadhyay and the same area’s local unit president Sajal Roy joined the ruling party. Without these leaders, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh could not have won the Midnapore Lok Sabha seat, claimed TMC leaders.

On Tuesday, the TMC announced that 100 BJP workers and a former BJP youth front leader shifted their allegiance to the ruling party in Hooghly districts. The same day, the TMC said that 250 BJP workers led by their local general secretary left the saffron camp at Cooch Behar district in north Bengal region where the BJP won seven out of eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019.

The switching of camps has sharpened the rhetoric in the poll-bound state.

“The TMC had claimed for years that the BJP is an insignificant force in Bengal. And now, when it can see the writing on the wall, the ruling party is trying to project that it is not a spent force because people from the BJP are joining it in such large numbers,” said Bengal BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar.

“Those who have joined the TMC are small functionaries. We are not worried at all. Mamata Banerjee should make tall statements if heavyweight leaders such as Mukul Roy and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who left her, return to the TMC. We feel pity for her,” added Majumdar.

TMC Lok Sabha member and spokesperson Saugata Roy said the exodus from the BJP is a fallout of the call Banerjee gave two months ago.

“While addressing party workers at the TMC’s martyrs’ day programme on July 21, she asked deserters to return home. We are seeing the effect now. The BJP may claim that hundreds of TMC workers are joining it, the reality is quite the opposite. Reverse migration has started,” said Roy.

Kolkata-based political science professor Udayan Bandopadhyay feels that the desertions in both camps have been triggered by aspirations.

“In the BJP, a lot of young leaders and party workers are returning to the TMC because their political aspirations have not been fulfilled. This is mainly because of an apparent lack of coordination between the party’s state and central leadership. On the other hand, a section of TMC workers are leaving in the hope of getting something that they cannot achieve in the ruling party,” said Bandopadhyay.

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