Two BJP MLAs meet Mamata Banerjee, spark speculations of ‘homecoming’
- While one of the BJP MLAs refused to comment on the meeting with Mamata Banerjee, the other said that he had met her to discuss development projects in his constituencies.
With turncoats from Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) boosting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the assembly election in April-May, two legislators from the saffron camp met chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday afternoon, sparking speculations of their return to the party.
The MLAs, Sunil Singh from Noapara and Biswajit Das from Bongaon North in North 24 Parganas district, were welcomed into the BJP at the party’s headquarters in Delhi in June 2019, a month after the BJP set a record by winning 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.
Singh and Das met Banerjee at her chamber in the state assembly where she had gone to attend the ongoing budget session. Das was even seen touching Banerjee’s feet to seek her blessings.
Urban development minister Firhad Hakim and food and supplies minister Jyoti Priyo Mullick were present at the 20-minute closed-door meeting.
Mullick’s presence drew attention as he is also the president of the TMC’s North 24 Pargans district unit and earlier succeeded in bringing back many deserters.
Significantly, Singh is the brother-in-law of Arjun Singh, the BJP’s heavyweight Lok Sabha from Barrackpore, who left the TMC prior to the Lok Sabha polls and wrested the seat by defeating the ruling party’s then sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi.
Sunil Singh did not comment on the meeting and left the assembly after flashing a victory sign.
“How can I comment on why he met the chief minister? I can say something if he returns to the TMC. The party will take appropriate action if something like that happens,” Arjun Singh told HT.
Das was brought into the BJP by the party’s then national secretary Mukul Roy whose son Subhranshu, an MLA from the same district, also switched camps. Roy is now the BJP’s national vice-president.
Das claimed that he met Banerjee to discuss some pending development projects in his constituency. “I met her because she is the leader of the ruling party,” said Das.
Mukul Roy tried to avoid the issue. “Das touched Banerjee’s feet out of respect. After all, she is a senior leader,” he said.
The ministers present at the meeting did not comment on what transpired. “Wait and watch,” a senior TMC leader from North 24 Parganas said on condition of anonymity.
By the evening, the BJP leadership held a closed-door meeting with Das and Singh at the party's new election office in Kolkata. The meeting was held in the chamber of BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and attended by Mukul Roy and Arjun Singh.
The two MLAs were summoned to the BJP office shortly after they left the assembly, a party leader said on condition of anonymity. While Vijayvargiya was holding the meeting, two TMC MLAs and actor Rudranil Ghosh, who joined the BJP with former minister Rajib Banerjee on January 31, were being felicitated on another floor of the building.
Sunil Singh and Biswait Das were taken to the felicitation ceremony and were given seats alongside the newcomers.
"Please do not see this as a damage control exercise since no damage was done," a senior BJP state committee member said who did not wish to be named.
Though the TMC earlier accused the BJP of engineering defections, the ruling party took a strong stand after former minister Suvendu Adhikari joined the BJP on December 19 along with six sitting MLAs of the TMC, three MLAs from the Left and Congress, a TMC Lok Sabha member and at least 20 district leaders and former legislators.
Calling them “gaddar” (traitors), the chief minister said at several election rallies after the mass defection that the TMC was going through a cleansing process with “rotten elements” joining the saffron camp.
Banerjee and senior TMC leaders intensified the rhetoric after former forest minister Rajib Banerjee joined the BJP in Delhi on January 31 along with two sitting MLAs, the outgoing mayor of Howrah town and a former legislator.
Targeting the TMC, Rajib Banerjee said on Monday that the ruling party is not getting candidates for the coming polls and making offers to people at random.
“You (journalists) may get offers too,” Banerjee quipped.
Last week, the TMC inducted Srijan Roy, a brother-in-law of Mukul Roy and who joined the BJP in 2019.