The Trinamool Congress now faces a challenge in Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency, with long-time party leader Arjun Singh joining the BJP at the party’s New Delhi office on Thursday.
Singh said he had severed his 30-year association with TMC chief Mamata Banerjee — since her time in the Congress — as the party is “all about money now”. However, it is suspected that one motivation for the departure had to do with Mamata choosing sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi over him for the Barrackpore seat.
Reacting to the defection, TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee said the party would win the Barrackpore seat this time by the same margin as 2014. “If Singh is a big leader, then he must contest the polls here on BJP’s ticket. We will win by a margin of over two lakh votes. People like him have joined BJP to get election tickets. It does not matter who is leaving the party. If they want to leave, then let them go,” he said. Click here for more election news
TMC sources said Singh had urged Mamata to consider his name for the seat. He was present at Mamata’s house when the candidate list was announced on Tuesday and voiced disappointment at Trivedi being chosen instead of him.
“People wanted me to contest from Barrackpore as they were not happy with Dinesh Trivedi. But Banerjee has made up her mind. Now no one can do anything,” he had told reporters later that day. On Wednesday night, he flew to Delhi and joined BJP on Thursday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a TMC leader said Singh had been made the in-charge of party affairs in Jharkhand, but this did little to pacify him. The leader also said he was also offered a ministerial berth, but did not accept it.
Singh is the third prominent TMC leader to join BJP in the last few weeks, after Bishnupur MP Soumitra Khan and Bolpur MP Anupam Hazra. Both MPs were expelled from the party. However, Singh is yet to expelled.
Reacting to Singh’s departure, TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi said, “Here, people vote for only one leader and that is Mamata Banerjee. It does not matter who stays in the party or not. I wish him all the luck.”
State minister and TMC leader Firhad Hakim said, “I made a mistake by trusting him when he said he will not join hands with Mukul Roy. Today, he made a U-turn and joined BJP. People will not forgive them (defecting leaders) for breaking their trust.”
Singh’s brother-in-law Sunil Singh, also with the TMC, said he would not leave the party. “The question does not arise. I will stay in TMC,” he said.
TMC MLA from Bijpur and Mukul Roy’s son Subhrangshu Roy said his constituency will produce the best result against the BJP. “In Barrackpur seat, my constituency will have around one lakh more votes than the BJP. That is my challenge. The TMC will not be weakened by his departure and this will not have an impact on the election result. Our leader is Mamata Banerjee and no second person matters to the people,” he said.
Who is Arjun Singh?
Singh is a four-term MLA from the Bhatpara Assembly constituency under Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat. He is also the chairman of Bhatpara Municipality and the president of the TMC’s Hindi wing. He had unsuccessfully contested from from Barrackpore in the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha polls, but lost to the CPM’s Tarit Baran Topdar. He lost by 40,000 votes in 1999, when the TMC was not in power. His association with Mamata goes back to the 80s, when she was the youth Congress leader. When she formed the TMC in 1998, Singh was among those who joined the party. Since 2001, he has been MLA from Bhatpara. There are several criminal cases lodged against him.