Striking immediately after making deep inroads in West Bengal where it upset the ruling TMC in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP Tuesday welcomed into its fold three state MLAs, including BJP leader Mukul Roy’s son Subhrangshu Roy, and more than 60 councillors, the majority from the TMC.
With the councillors switching loyalties, the BJP has seized control of Naihati, Halisahar and Kanchrapara municipalities and is set to capture Bhatpara too in the North 24 Parganas.
The MLAs who joined the BJP are Subhrangshu Roy, suspended from the TMC for “anti-party” activities after the elections results, Tushar Kanti Bhattacharya, who had crossed over to the TMC from Congress, and, Debendra Nath Roy of CPM.
BJP general secretary and its West Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy told reporters that more MLAs from the TMC will join the BJP in the coming days.
The TMC reacted angrily, calling the defectors “rats”. Senior TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim said: “When a ship sinks, rats start deserting it. But those rats forget that they are jumping into the water. A political party has won some seats.
Now those leaving us for that party, be it under pressure or anything else, do not believe in ideology. Those who believe in ideology will fight till the end. We believe that they have joined the party under pressure, just like Mukul Roy who also joined under pressure.”
Once close to TMC leader Mamata Banerjee before he fell out with her and joined the BJP, Mukul Roy took a swipe at her for saying she wanted to resign following her party’s performance in the Lok Sabha elections — the TMC tally fell from 34 to 22 seats while the BJP climbed from two to 18 seats.
Calling it a “drama”, Roy said: “She will stick to her chair at all costs till people decide to remove her.” He claimed that in the 2021 assembly polls, the TMC will struggle to even get the Opposition status.
In the 2016 assembly elections, the TMC won 211 of the 294 seats in the West Bengal House while the BJP managed only three seats.
“People are fleeing the TMC to join the BJP. Many more will join in the coming weeks,” Roy said, rejecting the TMC claim that the BJP was practising horse-trading by luring its leaders.
Vijayvargiya recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an election speech in the state, had said that over 40 TMC legislators were in touch with the BJP. He said many regional party leaders are feeling suffocated due to Banerjee’s “dictatorial” functioning. “We want her government to continue till 2021, but if it falls due to her doings, then we cannot help it,” he said.
In the TMC camp, efforts were underway to stem the exodus of party leaders. The North 24 Parganas district TMC leadership, led by its president Jyotipriya Mullick, held a meeting Tuesday with functionaries of other municipalities and party MLAs to plan a counter-strategy.
TMC leader and state minister Tapas Roy said: “This is not a crisis. We are monitoring the situation and will take action accordingly.”
Mullick claimed TMC leaders have joined the BJP at “gunpoint”. “I don’t think anybody has joined the BJP on their own will. They have been made to do it at gunpoint. They have not done it believing in BJP’s ideology,” he said.
According to Mukul Roy, 29 of 31 councillors of Naihati municipality joined the BJP while 17 councillors each from Kanchrapara and Halisahar municipalities, which have a total of 24 and 23 councillors respectively, too switched sides.
BJP MP Arjun Singh was said to have engineered the defection in Bhatpara municipality, bringing eight TMC councillors to the the party. When he had joined the BJP in March, he had brought 11 TMC councillors. The BJP now has support of 19 of 35 councillors and will stake claim to run the civic body.