In what is touted to be a major blow for the ruling-Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, its refugee relief and rehabilitation minister Manjul Krishna Thakur left the party’s ranks to join the BJP on Thursday.
After faxing his resignation to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Thakur, along with his son Subrata Thakur, drove down to attend a BJP press conference where he announced his decision to join the saffron party.
Calling the chief minister ‘whimsical and autocratic’, Thakur complained that he was not allowed to function to the best of his abilities. His defection once again brings to the fore signals pointing to the rise of the BJP as a strong political force in the state. It is no secret that the saffron party harbors ambitions to replace the CPI(M) as the main opposition party and if possible even replace the Trinamool as the ruling party in the 2016 Assembly elections.
State BJP president Rahul Sinha said, “The beginning of the end for the Trinamool has started as more ministers and senior leaders of the party have expressed their willingness to join our party. But we have decided not to take anybody who is tainted in the Saradha chit fund case.”
The Trinamool is in a sticky situation with its senior leader Mukul Roy being called in for questioning by the CBI in connection with the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam. Transport Minister Madan Mitra and the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose have already been arrested in the case and are languishing in jail.
While Banerjee’s party still commands considerable influence in Bengal’s rural hinterlands, Thakur’s exit deals a blow to the party’s interests in the Bongaon parliamentary constituency in North 24 Parganas district. Kapil Krishna Thakur, the Trinamool MP from Bongaon and brother of Manjul, had passed away in October last year. A bypoll in the seat is scheduled for February 13 and both Trinamool and the BJP would be fighting hard to win the seat. In the May General Elections, the BJP had secured its highest vote share — 17% in the state along with victories in 2 parliamentary constituencies.
While several reports quoted the BJP saying that more defections are likely to follow in the days to come, the party’s acid test would be the upcoming civil polls due at the end of March. It remains to be seen what measures Banerjee would take to raise the cadre’s sagging spirits and to prove to her critics that her personal image remains unblemished.