Trinamool leaders denied party ticket make a beeline for the BJP, among them Dipendu Biswas and Sonali Guha

Published : March 08, 2021 22:36 IST

At an event to mark their entry into the BJP, (from second right) Trinamool leader Sarala Mormu, actor Tanusree Chakraborty and Trinamool MLA Sonali Guha with State BJP President Dilip Ghosh, BJP vational vice president Mukul Roy and party MP Locket Chatterjee, in Kolkata on March 8. Photo: PTI

The release of the Trinamool Congress’ candidates list for the West Bengal Assembly election has precipitated another round of defection from the ruling party to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On March 8, three days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee released her party’s list of candidates, five outgoing MLAs who were not given the ticket, and even one who was, left the party to join the BJP.

The outgoing MLAs include party veterans like Rabindranath Bhattacharjee from Singur, Sonali Guha from Satgachhia, Dipendu Biswas from Basirhat South, Jatu Lahiri from Shibpur, and Sital Sardar from Sankrail. Sarala Murmu, Trinamool’s candidate from Habibpur in Malda district, also joined the BJP, along with a large number of panchayat-level leaders from the district. Fourteen Zilla Parishad members belonging to the Trinamool also joined the saffron party. With the defection at the panchayat level, BJP has now seized control of the zilla parishad, having 23 out of the total 38 members in its party.

Eighty-eight-year-old Rabindranath Bhattacharya, popularly known as ‘Mastermoshai’ is one of the most respected political figures in the State and a former minister in Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet. However, of late Bhattacharya has been at odds with the party and has often been critical of the Trinamool leadership for turning a blind eye to corruption and promoting those who are giving the party a bad name. He was one of the most important faces of Trinamool’s movement against forcible land acquisition in Singur for setting up Tata Motors’ small car factory. Eventually, the Singur movement led by Mamata forced the Tatas to shift the project out of the State. It put an end to the scope for Bengal’s industrial revival, but it also paved the way for Mamata to assume power in the State in 2011.

Bhattacharya, who has been Singur’s MLA since 2001, was stung at not getting the party ticket this time. The party had announced that it would not be fielding candidates who are over the age of 80. “The party has abandoned me. If it wanted to keep me, then it would have discussed the matter with me before taking a decision,” he said. Bhattacharya is willing to contest the election from Singur if the BJP gave him the ticket.

Four-time MLA Sonali Guha, who was once a close aide of Mamata’s, broke down before the media when she got the news that she was not nominated. Mamata said the decision was based on Sonali’s high blood sugar condition. “I had given all my efforts for the Trinamool; Didi [Mamata Banerjee] and others know that very well. I will now devote myself equally to the new party," she said. Former football player-turned-politician Dipendu Biswas, too, was stunned when he was denied the ticket and was at a loss to explain what could have been the reason behind Mamata’s decision.

However, most interesting has been Trinamool’s candidate from Habibpur, Sarala Murmu, joining the BJP. “All the good members of the Trinamool in the region have joined the BJP… they just give you the post there, but they do not allow you to do any work,” Murmu said. Trouble was brewing within the Trinamool from the moment the list of candidates was announced. Disgruntled party workers and followers of those who were left out began to stage violent agitations in different parts of the State; and several leaders indicated that they would quit the party.

The BJP too has been facing its share of protests by angry party workers who are unhappy with the selection of candidates. The BJP released a list of 57 (out of a total of 60 seats) for the first two phases of the election taking place on March 27 and April 1.