As West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is fighting her biggest political war against the belligerent BJP, a fresh battle of attrition began after several TMC leaders, sitting MLAs and ministers made a beeline to join the saffron brigade on Monday after they found their names missing from the TMC candidates’ list for the Assembly Polls.
With today’s joining, BJP is all set to capture Malda Zilla Parishad as out of 38 seats, BJP’s strength increased to 23. “We are now in majority and soon we will be able to appoint a BJP Zila Parishad chairman in Malda,” he said.
TMC had 27 while BJP had six seats but with the defection, BJP is comfortable with the figures to capture Malda Zilla Parishad.
Among many in the TMC, nearly 28 sitting MLAs, including five ministers, and heavyweight leaders like footballer Dipendu Biswas (MLA Basirhat in South 24-Parganas), Sital Sardar (MLA Shanktrai), Bachhu Hansda (MLA from Tapan in South Dinajpore), Sonali Guha, Arabul Islam, Smita Bakshi and Ranjit Biswas were denied tickets on March 5 and since then they have opened a communications with the BJP leadership.
But leaders like Sarala Murmu came as a concern for Mamata because despite getting the ticket from Habibpur in Malda district to contest the polls, she has decided to join the BJP. “The respect which I was supposed to get in TMC was missing. I was very impressed with the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi is ruling India. Therefore, I have decided to join BJP,” Sarala Murmu said.
Speaking to News18, Ranjit Biswas, a Zila Parishad Member in North 24-Parganas known to be close to BJP leader Mukul Roy, said: “I felt humiliated in TMC because I was not called to attend party meetings in the recent past. Therefore, I have joined BJP after consultation with Mukul Roy.”
Not the least, TMC MLA from Chakdaha (Nadia district), Ratna Ghosh, has also joined BJP after her name was missing from the candidates’ list. Ratna expressed her discontent after she was replaced with another party leader Subhankar Singha (Jishu) to contest from the seat.
Another defector Dipendu Biswas (MLA Basirhat in South 24-Parganas), said: “I was hurt when I found my name missing from the list. I worked hard in my constituency and despite that I was not given the ticket. I was expecting a courtesy call from senior party leaders before finalising the candidate from Basirhat. Therefore, today I have joined BJP to serve my people in my constituency”.
The TMC MLA from Satgachia (South-24 Parganas), Sonali Guha, a close associate of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, also joined the BJP in presence of Suvendu Adhikari, Mukul Roy and Dilip Ghosh. She pledged to work hard to strengthen the BJP in Bengal.
“I don’t want to say anything about Mamata Banerjee but all I can say is that she deserted me, I didn’t. I was expecting a call from Mamata but it never came. I worked with Mamata for 32 years and quit because my name was missing from the candidate list. I am not here in the BJP office to seek tickets for the Assembly polls. I have categorically told the BJP leadership that I will not contest the election,” Sonali Guha said.
Recently, when her name was missing from the list, a teary-eyed Guha had said, “Don’t want to comment anything right now. I wish Mamata will realise one day that what she has done to her party and her trusted leaders. I can’t think beyond ‘didi’ and I didn’t leave her. I never expected that she would leave me. The fact is Didi don’t even know details about the candidate (Mohan Chandra Naskar) who replaced me in Satgachia.”
Guha was first elected to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly in 2001 from the Satgachia Assembly seat on the TMC ticket. She defeated CPI (M) leader Gokul Bairagi by about 6,000 votes. Then, her victory was significant as former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu held the seat for five terms since 1977 but in the 2001 election, he decided not to contest over health issues.
She was elected as the first women deputy speaker of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
But despite being close to Mamata, why was she not given the ticket from Satgachia to contest the elections?
Party insider claimed that Guha was under radar since December 2014 when she as a deputy speaker barged into an apartment in Howrah along with her supporters and allegedly manhandled a 63-year-old homeopath Nagendra Rai for his ‘allegiance’ with the state BJP leaderships.
Then she had claimed herself to Nagendra as ‘Chief Minister’s Man’. Not the least she also warned him that no BJP leaders like Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh will come to save him as this is Bengal and here Mamata calls the shot.
In 2016, Sonali Guha contested and won the Satgachia Assembly constituency with a margin of 17,272 votes by defeating Paramita Ghosh of CPI (M).
In the meantime, Prashant Kishor was roped in by Mamata Banerjee to reorganise the party through his political suggestion on June 6, 2019.
From 2016 to 2021, an assessment done by Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC revealed that as a peoples’ representative she was not very successful and her presence in the Satgachia Assembly constituency was minimal.
Similarly, survey was also done in all the 294 constituencies by I-PAC and the list was prepared based on the feedback which Mamata has received from the people on ground.
“There were a lot of complaints against her from Satgachia and therefore the party has decided to field a safe and popular candidate. It is also true that there are no corruption charges against her. The only problem with Sonali was, her communication with the people in her constituency was not good,” a party insider said.
When asked, she was very close to Mamata and her ticket denial came as a surprise, he said, “Love and respect for Didi is fine but that is not the only way to get a ticket in the party. One has to perform to ensure victory for the party. This time the situation is different and the party has decided not to take any chance.”
Another disgruntled leader Rabindranath Bhattacharya, sitting MLA from Singur in Hooghly, who also joined BJP said, “By not giving me the ticket is a clear signal from TMC that they don’t want me anymore in the party,” he said.
Jatu Lahiri, another important TMC leader, too joined the BJP today after having a long meeting with BJP Vice-President Mukul Roy in Kolkata.
Jatu is the current MLA from Shibpur Assembly constituency but this time he was not given the ticket to contest the poll. “Till my last breath I will work for the BJP. I have not joined BJP to get the ticket,” Lahiri said.
BJP State President, Dilip Ghosh, said, “I would like to welcome all those who joined today. Who will get a ticket and who will not will be clear soon.”