Diamond Harbour MLA Dipak Haldar joined the BJP on Tuesday, a day after he quit the Trinamool Congress. The two-time legislator, whose assembly segment is part of Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee's constituency, joined the BJP along with several other local TMC leaders and workers at a public meeting here in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district.
Haldar quit the ruling party accusing the TMC leadership of not allowing him to work for the people. He had skipped a recent public rally by Banerjee, raising speculation about his political aspirations.
After the latest entry, senior leaders said on Tuesday that BJP has decided to stop mass joinings from the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal amid growing resentment within the saffron party over rampant inductions without scrutiny. "Selective" inductions would be made henceforth, that too after consultations with the local leadership," they said.
"We don't want the BJP to turn into the B-team of the TMC by inducting leaders who don't have a clean image. We don't want people, facing allegations or are involved in immoral or illegal activities, to join our party," BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said. "So henceforth, mass joinings would not take place. From now on, the joinings would be very selective and that too after scrutiny," he added.
The decision has been taken amid rising infighting within the party's West Bengal unit, often snowballing into the open, a senior state BJP leader said. "In many cases, the district leadership is not happy with the mass inductions. It has led to infightings and the matter has not gone down well with the central leadership," he said.
The BJP is working on a mechanism for leaders and cadres of other parties who want to switch over, he said. The mechanism will be in place to ascertain whether they have a good image in the public, the state party leader said.
"Although the central and state leaderships would take the final call regarding the joinings, but those who wish to join also need to get a no-objection certificate from the local or district leadership of the party," he said. Several former TMC leaders who are being probed for corruption have switched over to the BJP in the last few years.
Since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has inducted 18 MLAs and an MP of the Trinamool Congress, three MLAs each from the CPI(M) and the Congress, and one MLA from the CPI. Except for former ministers Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee, none of the MLAs have resigned from the assembly.
Reacting to the development, the Trinamool Congress said the BJP's decision reflects that it has lost the plot in Bengal. "The BJP neither has leaders nor has a face in Bengal. So, it was poaching leaders from other parties," TMC spokesperson Sougata Roy said.
"It has led to infighting within the party, so it has nothing to do rather than shutting its doors. It has lost the plot ahead of the elections," he added. Elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly are likely to be held in April-May.
Meanwhile, former West Bengal minister Rajib Banerjee, who recently joined the BJP from the TMC, on Tuesday accused his former party of indulging in regionalism for narrow political gains which affected the interests of the people of the state. TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been fighting the central government for political compulsions, he alleged.
"A strange fire of regionalism is being spread (by the TMC). It is more dangerous than communalism. Bengal's boys and girls are also in other states for education and work," Rajib Banerjee said addressing a public meeting here in South 24 Parganas district. The TMC often targets the BJP, claiming that it is a "party of outsiders".
Rajib claimed that on one hand, TMC leaders quote Rabindranath Tagore, and on the other, they indulge in violence and intimidation of opposition party workers. BJP leaders Rajib Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari were shown black flags on their way to the public meeting here.
The saffron party claimed that TMC workers were behind this. While Adhikari switched sides from the TMC to the BJP in December last year, Rajib did the same last week.
Speaking at the meeting, Adhikari maintained that people of all faiths have got ration and cooking gas given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and they will support the BJP in the assembly elections in the state due in April-May. "After (cyclone) Amphan, Prime Minister Modi had come to visit the affected areas immediately and had given Rs 1,000 crore for relief, but the funds were misappropriated," he said.
Adhikari charged the TMC government with changing the names of central schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission and claiming these to be their own. Rajib claimed that by denying the central share of funding in schemes such as Ayushman Bharat and introducing a health insurance programme of the state government Swasthya Sathi, the chief minister has emptied the state exchequer.
"She deliberately did not allow farmers of the state to get the benefits of PM Kishan Samman Nidhi," he alleged. Under the PM-Kisan scheme, an income support of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal installments is provided to small and marginal farmer families. The BJP leader said Union Home Minister Amit Shah had assured him that Bengal would get a special economic package for its development after the elections.
Rajib added that the chief minister boasts of West Bengal's top position in the country in the 100-days' work programme, but it only shows the bad job situation in the state that so many people have to get work through that scheme.
(With inputs from PTI)