Mamata loses party’s Kolkata strongman to BJP

Published : Oct 02, 2019 18:56 IST

At a rally in Kolkata on October 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah welcomes former Trinamool Congress leader Sabyasachi Dutta to the BJP.

At a rally in Kolkata on October 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah welcomes former Trinamool Congress leader Sabyasachi Dutta to the BJP.

On October 1, Trinamool heavyweight and former Mayor of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, Sabyasachi Dutta, ended months of speculation and officially joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). At a time when the BJP is closing in on the Trinamool Congress in the race for power in the 2021 Assembly election in West Bengal, Sabyasachi’s defection does not bode well for the ruling party, particularly when defections from it show no signs of stopping. Since the beginning of this year more than five Trinamool MLAs have joined the BJP.

For quite some time now, Sabyasachi had been a thorn on the Trinamool’s side with his repeated overtures to the BJP and constant criticism of his own party. Talks of his joining the BJP became rife when he resigned from his post as the Mayor of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation in July. Joining the BJP in the presence of party president Amit Shah, Sabyasachi said, “For me the country comes first, then the party and then the individual.” In his speech he appealed to Amit Shah to “cool down” Bengal. “You have cooled down Kashmir. Bengal is not cool. Cool it down,” he said.

However, not everyone in the BJP is happy with Sabyasachi joining the saffron party. His close association with the “syndicate” system (a euphemism for extortionists operating in the housing and infrastructure sectors) is well known, and some of the party old-timers feel that his joining the BJP may ultimately tarnish the party’s image. Sabyasachi was once caught on camera admitting that the syndicate bore the bulk of his election expenditure.

Sources within the BJP pointed out that it was choice born of practical necessities. In spite of its good showing in the recent Lok Sabha election, where it won 18 of the 42 seats in West Bengal, the BJP has time and again failed make a dent in Kolkata. “Sabysachi Dutta, for all his faults is a leader of influence in certain urban areas of Kolkata like Bidhannagar and Rajarhat. With him and Sovan Chatterjee in our party we now have a foothold in Kolkata,” a BJP leader told Frontline .

In August, Sovan Chatterjee, once considered one of Mamata Banerjee’s closest aides, joined the BJP. Sovan’s joining too had raised eyebrows in certain sections of the BJP as he was among the top Trinamool leaders seen accepting cash on camera in a sting operation carried out by the news portal Narada News. Sources in the BJP have acknowledged that they are not in a position to pick and choose leaders when it comes to Kolkata. “We are accepting all who can help us capture Kolkata,” said a BJP leader.

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