Yashwant Sinha, former Union Finance Minister, joins Trinamool, says election in Bengal will pave the way for the BJP’s defeat at the Centre

Published : March 13, 2021 17:40 IST

Yashwant Sinha (second from left) joining the Trinamool Congress. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, once an important leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), joined the Trinamool Congress on March13, just two weeks ahead of the Assembly election in West Bengal. According to Sinha, the fight for Bengal is one of the most important political battles in the country today, as it will be a harbinger of ‘parivartan’ (change) at the Centre in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Sinha claimed that “the tipping point” for his decision to join the Trinamool was the alleged attack on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram on March 10.

Introducing him to the party, Sudip Bandopadhyay, leader of the All India Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha, said that with the election coming up, Yashwant Sinha’s participation will “further strengthen” Trinamool and give it “a very positive direction”. Sinha claimed that Trinamool’s victory in the election is “almost certain” and that the message that should go from Bengal is that the country will not tolerate Modi [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] and Shah’s [Union Home Minister Amit Shah] misrule anymore. “This is a vital election for the future of this country. The path of change in Delhi in 2024 will go through Bengal,” said Sinha.

Heaping praise on Mamata Banerjee, with whom he had held a 45-minute-long talk earlier in the day, Sinha recounted an incident of how Mamata had once volunteered to offer herself to terrorists in exchange for the hostages they had taken. “Mamata ji has always been a fighter and she is still a fighter. On one occasion terrorists had hijacked an Indian Airlines plane, and took it to Kandahar. When this was being discussed in the Cabinet, Mamata ji offered to become a hostage herself on the condition that the other hostages were released by the terrorists. She was ready to sacrifice her life,” said Sinha.

Sinha also lashed out at the BJP government at the Centre, saying that the very institutions upon which democracy stood, including the judiciary, have weakened under the Modi government. “The values which were almost unshakeable are being disregarded today. The strengths of any democracy lie in the strengths of its institutions. The democratic stature of our republic is in danger. Today, almost every institution of democracy has become weakened and unfortunately, the judiciary system is also among them. There is no one left to check the government’s will. This is the biggest threat to the democracy of our republic,” said Sinha. Listing one failure after another of the present government at the Centre, including the farmers’ protest, the condition of migrant workers during lockdown, the state of education and health care, Sinha said that “it seems like that the sole aim of the BJP is to win every election everywhere”.

Sinha, who was a Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Cabinet, explained why he chose to leave his former party, saying there is a difference of heaven and earth between what the BJP is now and what it was during the time of Vajpayee. “You may think why, after being a Minister in Atalji’s Cabinet, I decided to leave… Atal ji used to believe in consensus; today’s government believes in crushing. Atal ji used to co-opt people; today’s government wants to conquer people. In Atal ji’s national coalition there was Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference in Jammu & Kashmir, Akali Dal in Punjab, Chautala in Haryana, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka, either AIADMK or the DMK in Tamil Nadu, TDP in Andhra Pradesh, Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, Mamata ji in Bengal, Asom Gana Parishad in Assam, Nitish Kumar in Bihar… He never thought of dominating his coalition partners and claiming the vacant space for himself. Today’s BJP has nobody by its side… apart from Nitish Kumar, none of the parties I have mentioned are with the BJP anymore,” said Sinha.

He did not spare the Election Commission either, calling it a “puppet in the hands of the government” and averred that people have lost their faith in it. He alleged that the eight-phase election in Bengal has been scheduled in a manner so as to clearly give an advantage to the BJP. The Election Commission and the Trinamool Congress have been locked in a war of words after Mamata claimed to have been attacked in Nandigram. The Election Commission has strongly refuted Trinamool’s insinuation that the central body was working at the behest of the BJP.