TMC expels two MPs, one after he joined BJP
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TMC expels two MPs, one after he joined BJP

With these two expulsions, the strength of Mamata Banerjee’s party in Parliament’s Lower House has come down from 34 to 32.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2019 14:06 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Former Trinamool Congress MP Saumitra Khan (C) is welcomed by BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan (L) and BJP National General Secretary Arun Singh (R) as he joins the BJP, at BJP headquarters, in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday expelled Lok Sabha MPs Saumitra Khan and Anupam Hazra, the former after he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With these two expulsions, the strength of Mamata Banerjee’s party in Parliament’s Lower House has come down from 34 to 32.

While Khan, 38, is from Bishnupur in Bankura district, Hazra, 35, is from Bolpur in Birbhum district. Khan is the first sitting Lok Sabha member from TMC to defect to another camp.

“This is indicative of the winds of political change in Bengal. Khan was inspired by the leadership of Narendra Modi...,” said Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Banerjee’s former right hand man, Mukul Roy, who is convenor of BJP’s election management committee in Bengal, said, “Hazra is also in touch with us. More MPs and MLAs from Bengal's ruling party are waiting in wings to switch.

Khan’s switch and the two expulsions triggered a spat between TMC and BJP leaders.

Urban development minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim retorted by saying, “Everybody is a zero without the blessings of Mamata Banerjee. Without her, none can win.”

“Bengal has turned into a theatre of rule by the aunt and nephew duo. They are virtually playing with the lives of thousands,” remarked Khan, referring to Mamata Banerjee and her nephew, MP-cum-youth wing chief, Abhishek Banerjee.

“I’ll change my name if Khan manages to win in a single booth on a BJP ticket,” retorted Abhishek Banerjee.

Khan had a meeting with party president Amit Shah before joining BJP.

BJP’s first success in engineering defection from TMC ranks took place in early November 2017 when Mukul Roy — a Rajya Sabha MP till a few days before that -- joined the party. Roy is believed to be the person who got Khan to join BJP.

Incidentally, TMC has been on a poaching spree since coming in power in Bengal in May 2011. Since then, they weaned away as many as 39 MLAs from the Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc.

Khan won from Katulpur Assembly seat on a Congress ticket in 2011 and joined TMC a few months before 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

After becoming an MP, he was also made chief of the party’s youth wing, though for a brief stint of 5 months, until being replaced by Abhishek Banerjee.

Hazra, a teacher at Visva Bharati, a central university, was a political novice till he won from Bolpur on a TMC ticket. He publicly expressed his grievances against the party’s Birbhum district leadership several times in the past one year.

“For the past one year Hazra has been posting stuff on social media that the party does not approve. In fact, what he did is worse that what Saumitra Khan was exepelled for,” said TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee.

Both Khan and Hazra were not even in touch with the leaders of the party for a long time, alleged Chatterjee.

“What is the definition of anti-party activities? The only charge against me was that I used to post stuff on Facebook. But last year I deleted my Facebook account too. Moreover, I am not involved in dealings such as Narada and Saradha (scams),” Anupam Hazra told the media.

The day of rapidly unfolding drama started with Khan taking to Facebook to blast Bankura district police authorities for arresting his personal assistant Sushanta Dawn and threatened to gherao the police station on Thursday if Dawn was not released. Within a few hours, he joined BJP.

Bankura district police chief Koteswara Rao said Dwan was arrested because he was illegally possessing firearms.

“Khan and Hazra were cornered within TMC for quite some time now. It is highly possible that the police action against his aide was ordered after TMC got wind of his talks with BJP,” said political commentator Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University. “Hazra’s expulsion seems to be long overdue.”

In the afternoon TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee promptly announced expulsion of Khan and Hazra, accusing both of indulging in anti-party activities.

This is the first time since the birth of the TMC in January 1998 that two sitting MPs were expelled on the same day.

First Published: Jan 09, 2019 23:36 IST