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Ahead of Amit Shah meeting: Two more MLAs quit, TMC claims ‘deserters’ are no loss

Suvendu Adhikari and several other TMC leaders at various levels of the party are expected to join the BJP at a public meeting presided over by Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday.

Written by Dipankar Ghose , Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata, New Delhi | December 19, 2020 5:02:27 am
Police officers take stock of security preparations for Amit Shah’s rally at Midnapore College Ground, Friday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Two MLAs of the Trinamool Congress, the leader of its minority cell, and general secretary of a district unit quit the party on Friday as the widely anticipated exodus in the wake of former minister Suvendu Adhikari’s rebellion gathered momentum.

Suvendu and several other TMC leaders at various levels of the party are expected to join the BJP at a public meeting presided over by Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday.

The TMC put up a brave face – alleging it was the corrupt who were leaving the party. Senior TMC leaders said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s charisma and popularity were unmatched in West Bengal, and that would ultimately decide the Assembly elections a few months from now.

“I do not want to talk of individuals but as things stand today it appears that some people who have earned illegal money are being pressured to join the BJP. For such people, options are limited,” TMC Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha Sukhendu Sekhar Ray told The Indian Express.

Ray said more desertions were possible, but insisted they would be by people who “may not get renomination (to contest the Assembly election) because of their abysmal failure to perform as a people’s representative”. There was no one to “match” Mamata Banerjee, and the TMC was “least bothered” about the desertions, he said.

Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy said Suvendu Adhikari had left “absolutely for his personal ambition”. Roy said Suvendu “wanted control over a large number of MLA seats”, and “at one point, the party and Mamata Banerjee decided that he should not be given a free hand in these seats”. That, Roy said, was the “basic issue”.

TMC leaders predicted a Muslim backlash if Suvendu joined the BJP, and claimed that it was to assess the impact of this factor that the rebel had delayed the decision to cross over. Said Roy: “If he (Suvendu) had formed his own party, he may have had more credibility.”

The TMC’s MLAs from Barrackpore (North 24-Parganas) and Kanthi Uttar (Purba Medinipur), Shilbhadra Dutta and Banasri Maity respectively, gave up their membership of the party on Friday. They follow Suvendu (Nandigram, Purba Medinipur) who left the TMC on Wednesday, and Mihir Goswami (Cooch Behar Dakshin) who joined the BJP last month.

Jitendra Tiwari, the MLA from Pandabeswar in Paschim Bardhaman district and former chairman of the Asansol Municipal Corporation, however, did a dramatic U-turn on Friday and indicated he would stay back in the TMC. Tiwari had resigned from all party posts on Thursday—however, he met Mamata Banerjee’s confidant Arup Biswas on Friday, and expressed regret at having “hurt” the CM.

The BJP’s Asansol MP Babul Supriyo had come out openly against the move to induct Tiwari into the party. He had written on Facebook that he would “try with all might and honesty to ensure that no TMC leader who tormented my grassroots level BJP colleagues in Asansol” gets entry.

Shilbhadra Dutta had turned rebel a month ago, and refused to meet Mamata Banerjee’s political strategist Prashant Kishor and Food Minister Jyotipriya Mullick. “I think that I do not fit into the party in the present situation. However I will not resign as an MLA, as I have won the election on people’s votes,” he said on Friday.

Banasri Maity announced she would join the BJP on Saturday. “In last few months, I have faced insults. It has become impossible to stay in the party. Tomorrow I will join BJP in Amit Shah’s presence,” she said.

Also on Friday, the TMC lost the general secretary of its minority cell Kabirul Islam, and the general secretary of its Paschim Medinipur district unit Snehasish Bhowmick.

“I have sent my resignation letter today to minority cell president Haji Sheikh Nurul Islam. I want to follow Suvendu Adhikari wherever he goes,” Kabirul Islam said. Bhowmick too said, “I will follow Suvendu Adhikari now.”

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay Friday said he would not accept Suvendu’s resignation as MLA because it does not conform to the provisions of the Constitution and the rules of the House.

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