Babul Supriyo, former Union Minister and BJP Lok Sabha MP, joins Trinamool Congress

Published : September 18, 2021 20:50 IST

Lok Sabha MP Babul Supriyo (left) with Abhishek Banerjee, national general secretary of the Trinamool Congress, after the former joined the Trinamool Congress, in Kolkata on September 18. Photo: PTI

In a major political development ahead of the crucial Bhabanipur byelection in which West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be contesting, Babul Supriyo, former Union Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Lok Sabha MP, joined the Trinamool Congress on September 18.

Even though his equation with the saffron party had soured after he was removed from his ministerial post, Supriyo joining the Trinamool was a bolt from the blue, particularly since he had been unsparing of Mamata Banerjee. “It is not a politics of revenge; it is an opportunity that I have taken with all my heart,” he said soon after being inducted into the Trinamool in Kolkata by Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s all-India general secretary and Lok Sabha MP.

Interestingly, the BJP had included Supriyo’s name in the list of its star campaigners in the upcoming byelection in which it has fielded lawyer Priyanka Tibrewal against Mamata Banerjee. In fact, on September 10, Supriyo had endorsed Priyanka Tibrewal’s candidacy on social media saying: “Have always introduced Bright Youngsters to the Party&hv strongly backed them. Very confident they will make @BJP4India proud in the years to come.” The message was posted along with a picture of Priyanka Tibrewal.

Supriyo, a two-time MP from Asansol, had announced on social media on July 31 that he would be retiring from politics and had also made it clear that his removal from ministership had precipitated his decision. He wrote in a Facebook post: “I want to answer one question as I leave, because it is pertinent. Is there any connection between my leaving politics and getting removed from ministership? Yes there is. There is certainly some connection there.” However, even at that time, there were indications that he may be joining another political party. Initially, he had written that he would not be joining any other party, but later deleted that portion of the post.

Addressing the media after joining the Trinamool, Supriyo said: “I am very proud that I am changing my earlier decision [of quitting politics], and I am coming back to a great opportunity to serve Bengal. You will get to know in the coming days the great responsibility that Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek are going to give me.” He claimed that did not wish to turn down the “huge opportunity”. Though he did not specify what this “huge opportunity” was, the word going around in political circles is that he will be given a Rajya Sabha nomination. Arpita Ghosh recently resigned from her seat in the upper house.

Supriyo said he will be happy to campaign for Mamata Banerjee in Bhabanipur if asked to do so by the party, adding, “I do not think Mamata Didi has any need of Babul Supriyo’s campaigning.”

Talking about his differences with the BJP, Supriyo said, “When I won for the second time in 2019, my family and friends were all surprised when I was not given an independent charge. There is no need to elaborate how much power an MoS [Minister of State] wields.”

At a time when the West Bengal unit of the BJP has been losing MLAs and local leaders to the ruling party just months after being handed a humiliating defeat by the Trinamool, Supriyo’s defection is being seen as a major blow for the party’s political hopes in the State. Not only was Supriyo considered a high-profile leader, his crowd-pulling celebrity status was also often used by the BJP for campaigns. He was, in fact, made to contest in the Assembly election from Tollyganj, which he lost.

Reacting to his defection, BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “He felt the party had betrayed him, that it did not do right by him. Today, it has been proved that his one and only aim was to be a Minister. The party had asked him to step down for a while after making him a Minister twice. So he took revenge on the party and betrayed the people of Asansol…. But we can tell you one thing—in 2024, the BJP will win the Asansol Lok Sabha seat.”

However, it cannot be denied that, perception-wise, Babul Supriyo’s exit has hit the BJP hard. It has fallen prey to the very tactics it had itself used when it facilitated widespread defection of MPs and MLAs from the Trinamool ahead of the Assembly elections, and the party which had built up its ranks with turncoats a few months ago is now crying “foul” as the same tactics are being applied against it.

Welcoming Supriyo, Saugata Roy, senior Trinamool leader and Lok Sabha MP, said: “This proves that to do politics in West Bengal, one has no other alternative but to work under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee…. BJP has neither a present nor a future in Bengal. Already four MLAs have left the BJP to join us and many more want to switch over. BJP’s house will slowly become empty and the process has already started.”

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