Kolkata: After a long drawn period of public dissatisfaction with the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, former MLA and heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. Present were a galaxy of BJP leaders, ranging from MLAs and MPs to Union home minister Amit Shah.
Nine sitting MLAs, including five from Mamata Banerjee’s party, were among those who joined the BJP. The exodus spells discomfort for the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC just months ahead of the 2021 assembly polls in Bengal.
Shah’s two-day visit to Bengal was accompanied by a frenzy of leaders quitting TMC, with one, Jitendra Tiwari, making his way back to the party too.
The Medinipur College Grounds saw enormous crowds in one of the first big rallies, with little attention to COVID-19 protocols, in the state ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.
In addition to Adhikari, nearly 50 former TMC, Congress and Left front leaders joined BJP in Shah’s presence. Among them were Bardhaman East MP Sunit Mondal, former MP Dasharath Tirkey, Contai MLA Contai Banashree Maity, Haldia MLA Tapashi Mondal, CPI MLA Ashok Dinda, Barrackpore MLA Shilbhadra Dutta, Gajan MLA Dipali Biswas, former state minister Shyamapada Mukherjee, and Kalna MP Biswajit Kundu.
Several Muslim TMC leaders, in addition to a position holder in the state minority cell, joined BJP today.
“I have a long association with Amit Shah ji,” said Adhikari, addressing the rally. “I have been loved like a brother by the BJP. When I was afflicted by COVID-19, no one from the TMC, for whom I have given my life, asked me how I was. But Amit Shah did, twice,” he added.
After months of a costly stir, Adhikari finally resigned from the Mamata Banerjee-led party on Thursday, at once expressing fear that he may be implicated in criminal cases because of his exit.
“I want Kolkata and Delhi to have the same government, otherwise Bengal will not be saved,” Adhikari said.
In a direct challenge to Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee, Adhikari gave out a call to remove the “extortionist nephew.”
Adhikari’s Medinipur was a hotbed of the fight for India’s freedom from British rule, having produced several noted freedom fighters, who in time have become important political icons for various parties.
Amit Shah had earlier said on Saturday that pre-Independence revolutionary Khudiram Bose is as much a pride for the whole of India as he is of Bengal, hitting out at those indulging in “narrow politics of regionalism.”
A portion of the crowd visibly left the grounds after Adhikari’s speech and before Shah took to the podium.
Shah said that by the time the polls will come around, Mamata Banerjee will be the only person left in the TMC.
“An MP, 9 MLAs, one MoS…have joined us,” said Shah in an address peppered with mentions of farmers.
Shah said that the Mamata dispensation has been robbing Bengal’s farmers and poor from the several benefits and schemes that the Narendra Modi has given to the nation’s farmers.
Shah also mentioned the attack on BJP chief J.P. Nadda’s convoy. “More than 300 of our people have died at the hands of TMC,” said Shah. He mentioned the names of BJP’s members who have been killed in recent times.