Updated: October 5, 2021 4:14:43 pm
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s win in the Bhabanipur bypoll by a margin of over 58,000 votes came at a time when the TMC ranks have been bolstered by the return of its ‘prodigal sons’— led by Mukul Roy — who had switched over to the BJP with an eye on the Assembly polls.
Besides the MLAs who had jumped ship to the saffron party and have now returned to the TMC fold, the party led by Banerjee has also brought in one of the Congress’s most prominent Assam faces, Sushmita Dev, and former Goa CM Luizinho Faleiro, in what it hopes could lend an impetus to its push for expansion of its footprint beyond Bengal.
Besides Bhabanipur, TMC also won the two other seats that recently went to the bypolls— Jangipur was won by former state minister and TMC candidate Jakir Hossain by a massive margin of 92,480 votes while in Samserganj, TMC candidate Amirul Islam won by a margin of 26,111 votes.
TMC had won 213 seats in the Assembly polls held earlier this year. BJP had won 77 seats while GJM and ISF had bagged one seat each.
After bagging the Jangipur and Samserganj constituencies in Murshidabad district, its strength in the 294-seat Assembly is now officially at 215. However, the MLAs from the Khardah and Gosaba seats died after the Assembly polls and bypolls will be held there.
Elections to Jangipur and Samserganj had to be countermanded during the March-April Assembly polls due to the death of candidates.
TMC’s Sovandeb Chattopadhyay had won from Bhabanipur but later vacated the seat to make way for Banerjee to contest from the constituency.
Meanwhile, BJP MLAs Nisith Pramanik and Jagannath Sarkar later resigned to retain their Lok Sabha seats, bringing down the party’s strength in the Assembly to 75.
Four other BJP legislators — Mukul Roy, Tanmoy Ghosh, Biswajit Das and Soumen Roy — have switched over to the TMC since the Assembly polls. And with the recent resignation of Raiganj MLA Krishna Kalyani from the party, BJP’s strength has unofficially come down to 70 now. However, their strength in the House officially remains at 75 as none of them have resigned as BJP MLAs yet.
Assembly bypolls to four seats — Dinhata, Santipur, Khardaha, and Gosaba — will be held on October 30, and counting of votes will take place on November 2.
Nisith Pramanik and Jagannath Sarkar had won from the Dinhata and Santipur seats respectively, but vacated them later. Bypolls to Khardaha and Gosaba are being held following the death of TMC MLAs.
Return of ‘prodigal sons’
In June, ending weeks of speculation, BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy, along with his son and former MLA Subhrangshu, returned to the TMC.
“Mukul Roy has returned to his roots today. He could not work in the BJP. During the election, he did not make any anti-TMC statements. He has found peace by returning to his former party. He was made the national vice-president of the BJP, but he was not satisfied with the work. Mukul will continue to play the same role in our party which he used to play earlier,” said Banerjee after inducting Roy into the party.
After rejoining the TMC, Roy said, “It feels good to see my former colleagues here. Bengal will restore its glory under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee. I will issue a written statement on why I left the BJP. Under the present condition, no one can remain in the BJP.”
Although Roy won the Krishnanagar North seat on a BJP ticket, he had been maintaining distance from the party after it lost the polls.
Roy’s return to TMC was followed by that of BJP MLA Tanmoy Ghosh. After being inducted into the party, the Bishnupur MLA told reporters, “The BJP is practising vindictive politics in Bengal. During the Assembly election, they even tried to win Bengal by force. The BJP is also using government machinery to meddle into matters of the state and ruin the history and culture of Bengal.”
Just a day after Ghosh joined TMC, BJP MLA from Bagda, Biswajit Das, also jumped ship, saying he decided to leave the saffron party following some “misunderstandings” that should have never happened.
Das, a two-time MLA from the TMC, had switched over to the BJP in 2019.
Later, Soumen Roy, BJP MLA from Kaliaganj in Uttar Dinajpur district, also returned to the TMC fold, saying that he “could not accept the BJP culture”.
“I was with the Trinamool Congress and so was my family. Just before the Assembly polls, there was some issue and I had to contest the polls on a BJP ticket. But I believe in the culture of Bengal. BJP practices a culture which is not of Bengal. I could not accept their culture. On the other hand, Bengal is progressing under the leadership of [Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee. She is reaching out to the people with development. Therefore, I decided to return to my party,” said Roy after his return.
More recently, Raiganj BJP MLA Krishna Kalyani became the latest to resign from the party. He put in his papers after he was sent a show-cause notice by the BJP for speaking against the party’s Raiganj MP Debashree Chaudhuri.
Bringing in new faces
Besides the return of these MLAs, the TMC ranks have been strengthened with the induction of Dev, Faleiro and Babul Supriyo.
Two months after he was removed as Union Minister of State, sitting BJP MP Babul Supriyo joined the TMC, admitting he was disappointed at what had happened despite his “hard work and good work”.
Supriyo said TMC MP Derek O’ Brien, who was “a good friend”, had asked him if he wanted to join the TMC. “It was unexpected… I can just say that I responded to a good opportunity.”
He added that he was surprised that both TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and senior leader Abhishek Banerjee wanted him in the party. “To other people it might look like opportunism, but to me it’s a great opportunity… I want to be in a team to play… I don’t waste time sitting on the bench.”
Thereafter, president of the All India Mahila Congress and one of the Congress’s most prominent Assam faces, Sushmita Dev, also joined the TMC. “I don’t think I have compromised my ideology in joining the TMC. My joining the TMC is unconditional and I will take any responsibility given to me by Mamata Banerjee,” Dev told reporters.
“Under Mamata Banerjee’s leadership, I will make her vision more powerful. Mamata Di’s work in Bengal is inspiring. Several schemes of the Bengal government are praiseworthy and the fighting spirit of Mamata Banerjee is known to everyone. My relationship with Mamata Banerjee is not just political, we have family ties,” she said.
The most recent high-profile acquisition by the TMC was veteran Congress leader and former Goa CM Luizinho Faleiro.
After joining TMC in Kolkata, he said, “I am joining TMC to defeat BJP. Goa is suffering under BJP and is in a very bad shape. Goa needs Didi (Mamata Banerjee). We requested her to come to Goa and support Goans to protect their culture and heritage.”
According to TMC sources, along with Faleiro, nine other leaders — Lavoo Mamledar, Yatish Naik, Vijay Vasudev Poi, Mario Pinto De Santana, Anand Naik, Rabindranath Faleiro, Shivdas Sonu Naik, Rajendra Shivaji Kakodkar and Antonio Monteiro Clovis Da Costa — joined the party Wednesday.
Senior TMC leader Firhad Hakim has hinted that more leaders may well be in line to join the party.
“The process of returning has only started. Wait for a few more days. A big time BJP leader is all set to join our party…BJP will disintegrate in West Bengal,” he said recently while campaigning for Banerjee ahead of the Bhabanipur bypoll.
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