Kolkata: The TMC on Sunday said there was no need to raise a hue and cry over the recent defections from the party, as "traitors and backstabbers have existed since time immemorial". Addressing a press meet, state panchayat minister and TMC MLA Subrata Mukherjee said his party is neither shocked nor crestfallen, as such desertions "wouldn't have any impact" on assembly polls, likely to be held in April-May.
The TMC does not attach much importance to such developments, he said, and dismissed the BJP's "absurd claims" of winning 250 of 294 assembly seats. Political heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari, along with one MP and five MLAs of the TMC, joined the BJP on Saturday, during Home Minister Amit Shah's rally in Midnapore.
Hinting that Adhikari had been in touch with the saffron party for quite some time, the minister said, "We did have some information, and therefore we were not stunned or crestfallen. There is no reason to raise a hue and cry over the desertion of Mir Jafars. Such betrayals have been taking place for centuries."
History suggests that Mir Jafar, a military commander, aided the British and betrayed Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daulah during the Battle of Plasssey. His name had since been synonymous with treachery. "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 stated.
He further accused the saffron party of "belittling" Bengal's icons, as outrage over flex hoardings with Shah's image on top of that of Rabindranath Tagore continued in Santiniketan, the bard's abode. The party's student wing is staging a daylong sit-in at Jorasanko, the birth place of the bard in the city, to protest "this insult meted out to Tagore", the minister said.
Among others, TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay and state minister Shashi Panja 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 (flex) has insulted Tagore and scores of people in the country. It shows that the BJP has no respect for our icons," Mukherjee said.
Flex hoardings, with photo of Shah on top, image of Tagore in the middle and that of BJP leader Anupam Hazra underneath appeared in parts of Shantiniketan ahead of Shah's visit to Visva-Bharati and a roadshow in Bolpur. The posters have also drawn the ire of Left parties and Tagore's family members.
Amid the outrage, the BJP claimed that the posters, which bore the name of a cultural organisation, were put up by the TMC to "defame the saffron camp". Taking a jibe at BJP national president J P Nadda over the attack on his cavalcade earlier in December, Mukherjee 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." The senior TMC leader alleged that Shah was dishing out misinformation about construction of a farmer's house in Paschim Medinipur district.
"After having lunch at a farmer's residence, Shah said that the house was built entirely from the prime minister's housing project for the poor. The fact remains that the state and the Centre share the burden of this project. "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," he said. Claiming that the TMC government, with its 'Duare Sarkar' initiative, has already reached out to over 1.9 crore people, he said "it is a historic development".
"This move by our government should not be ridiculed by opposition parties. Similar measures should, in fact, be adopted by the Centre and other states," he added. Reacting to TMC's assertions, BJP state vice president Jaiprakash Majumder said his party has great respect for Bengal'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 which is falsely implicating our party to give it a bad name," Majumder said. Referring to the outsider tag given to the BJP's top leadership by the state's ruling party, he said, "This is a divisive ploy by the Trinamool for cheap political dividends, aimed at dividing the pluralistic society. The TMC won't be able to mislead people."