Headed for BJP, TMC Turncoats Confident of Garnering Votes Despite Change in Party Symbol
Political analysts, however, feel that for the voter it all boils down to a Narendra Modi versus Mamata Banerjee battle in West Bengal, with individual candidature bearing little significance.
File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
West Bengal: With just two days to the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, five disgruntled Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders jumped ship last minute and joined the BJP – in the hope that their loyal support base will burgeon their chances of winning on a new party symbol.
One of them is Anupam Hazra, the incumbent MP from Bolpur, who won on a TMC ticket in 2014. After being expelled from his party for ‘anti-party activities’, Hazra has now switched both his symbol and constituency to contest from Jadavpur on a BJP ticket. He is pitted against TMC's actor-turned politician Mimi Chakraborty, who has a considerable fan base despite being a greenhorn in politics.
For Hazra, his ‘inability to express himself freely’ while referring to the party chief Mamata Banerjee was the reason for his exit from the party. “The one-woman party is like an NGO where you can be thrown away one a one day’s notice. People involved in scams are still there,” he said.
However, Hazra is confident of a victory as a BJP candidate. “The candidate projected from TMC comforts me further. She will be visible only during campaigning to take selfies. It is an old strategy of TMC -- when they feel they are losing the seat, they project a film star,” he said.
Hazra added that the nature of celebrity-led campaigns is spurious. “In 2014 many film stars like Moon Moon Sen and Dev were visible during campaigning. But after that, it becomes impossible for ordinary people to access them,” he said, adding that since Jadavpur is an ‘educated and politically sensitive’ constituency, the voters here would know the right choice.
Mimi Chakraborty on the other hand, is unperturbed. According to her, she will win over voters with her persona. “One thing which is common between a politician and an actor is that they come for the people. Rest time will tell how I perform,” she said.
Four time MLA from Bhatpara, Arjun Singh is another popular politician who has been a Mamata loyalist for over three decades. He joined BJP after he was denied ticket from his party and will now be contesting the upcoming election from Barrackpore constituency, which falls under the Bhatpara Assembly constituency.
He accused the TMC of being autocratic in nature and democratic ‘only on paper’. “It was unfortunate that during the Pulwama attack, Banerjee said the attack was orchestrated by the BJP to reap political gains” he said.
"When I raised my voice against this, she asked me if I belong to the BJP now. If after 30 years she feels I am with BJP, then so be it,” Singh added. He has a stronghold in some constituencies of North 24 Parganas and is popular among the Hindi-speaking voters.
Hazra and Singh are confident that individual identities will work in their favour, apart from the party symbol.
Political analyst Shikha Mukerjee, however, feels that for the voter it all boils down to a Narendra Modi versus Mamata Banerjee battle in Bengal, with individual candidature bearing little significance to results. “Anupam Hazra, Arjun Singh, Soumitra Khan, Nishit Pramanik and Humayun Kabir went looking for other parties so that their specific ambitions in 2019 are realised. They believe they have a very loyal, committed vote bank which will follow them and transfer itself to whichever party they join. They were with them in TMC and will follow them to BJP. However, that is a sentimental logic,” she said.
The other three TMC loyalists who now take shelter under the BJP umbrella -- Khan, Kabir and Pramanik -- have similar hopes of reaping benefits from the saffron party’s rising popularity in West Bengal. Incumbent Bishnupur MP Soumitra Khan will be contesting from the same constituency. He had won on a TMC ticket in 2014.
A former minister in Mamata’s cabinet, Humayun Kabir was expelled from TMC in 2015 for his anti-party activities after which he switched over to the Congress and then to BJP. Kabir is contesting from Murshidabad constituency and believes that the BJP’s party symbol will signal hope for his political ambitions.
Nishit Pramanik, a former TMC youth Congress leader is now taking up the mantel to bolster BJP’s hopes of making headway into Coochbehar, one of the North Bengal constituencies that the party hopes to gain a stronghold in these elections.
BJP National President Amit Shah is looking to bag 23 of 42 seats in the state. The decision to name candidates who have crossed over from the TMC has not gone too well with a certain section of BJP supporters, who believe their hard work has gone in vain. The BJP, however, is banking on known faces on familiar terrain to combat Banerjee’s aspirations s of winning all of 42 seats in the land of ‘Ma Maati Manush’.
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