A day after former state minister Suvendu Adhikari and five Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLAs joined the BJP in Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s presence in Medinipur, the ruling party remained defiant and said the recent wave of defections from its ranks to the BJP would not affect it. “Traitors and backstabbers have existed since time immemorial,” it added.
The party labelled such leaders “Mir Jafars”. Mir Jafar was a military commander who aided the British and betrayed Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud-Daulah during the Battle of Plassey in 1757. His name is now synonymous with treachery.
In a press conference, state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said his party was neither shocked nor crestfallen as such desertions “will not have any impact” on the Assembly polls, which are likely to be held in April-May next year.
Insinuating that Adhikari had been in touch with the BJP quite some time, the minister said, “We did have some information, and therefore we were not stunned. There is no reason to raise a hue and cry over the desertion of Mir Jafars. Such betrayals have been taking place for centuries. Just with one Suvendu in its fold, the BJP hopes to win 250 seats…Thank god, they are not saying they will win all the seats.”
Mukherjee and TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien also spoke out in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s defence after Union Home Minister Amit Shah said at the Medinipur rally that it does not behove Banerjee to criticise the BJP for the defections as she had once done the same thing after leaving the Congress in 1998.
The leaders dismissed the claim, pointing out that Banjeree set up the TMC after quitting the Congress. “Claim: Mamata Banerjee left the Congress for another party and is accusing people of defection today. Reality: She did not defect to another party. She set up a NEW party in 1998, the All India Trinamool Congress,” tweeted O’ Brien.
Mukherjee said Banerjee’s 1998 move cannot be labelled “switching parties”. “Yesterday, Union Minister Amit Shah said Mamata Banerjee left a party to join another. Mamata never switched sides. In 1998, she left Congress and formed a new party — TMC. She was never associated with any other party,” he said at a press conference.
Criticising the Union minister, Mukherjee’s Cabinet colleague Firhad Hakim said, “He said the BJP would build ‘Sonar Bangla [Golden Bengal]’. They should make a ‘Sonar Bharat [Golden India]’ first and then they may try for ‘Sonar Bangla’. Modi said the government would provide one crore jobs, but 21 crore people became jobless in his regime. They are trying to make India a private limited company. Selling all the public sectors and now they are trying to win Bengal through communal politics.”
In his press conference, Mukherjee accused the saffron party of “belittling” Bengal’s icons after Shah’s image was given more prominence than Rabindranath Tagore in some hoardings put up in Santiniketan ahead of the Union minister’s programme there on Sunday. The BJP has claimed it did not put up the posters, and had blamed the TMC.
The students’ wing of the TMC, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad, is staging a daylong sit-in in Kolkata’s Jorasanko area, where the bard was born, to protest against “this insult meted out to Tagore”, Mukherjee said. MP Sudip Bandopadhyay and state minister Shashi Panja, among others, have joined the sit-in.
“People coming from outside cannot insult Tagore, who is the pride of our nation. They cannot belittle our luminaries. The poster has insulted Tagore and scores of people in the country. It shows that BJP has no respect for our icons.”
In response, BJP state vice-president Jaiprakash Majumder spoke of his party’s immense respect for the state’s cultural icons. “The BJP has great respect for our icons like Tagore, we invoke their words, their views, their writings in our actions. It is the TMC that is falsely implicating our party to give it a bad name. This is a divisive ploy by the Trinamool for cheap political dividends, aimed at dividing a pluralistic society. The TMC won’t be able to mislead people,” he added.
Meanwhile, taking a dig at BJP national president JP Nadda over an attack on his convoy on December 10, the panchayat minister said, “A person of his stature should not spread false information. He has been given Z-category security but still broke protocols. Many unauthorised cars were seen joining his convoy during his visit to Diamond Harbour.”
Mukherjee accused Amit Shah of spreading misinformation about the construction of a farmer’s house in Paschim Medinipur district.
After having lunch at a farmer’s home, Shah had said the house was entirely built as part of the prime minister’s housing project for the poor.
The state and the Centre share the burden of the project, he claimed. “A total of 33.87 lakh housing units were built in the state since 2011 at a cost of Rs 39.993 crore, a large portion of which was borne by the state. Figures speak for themselves. It is shameful to dish out facts suiting one’s own interest.