Five former Trinamool Congress leaders met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on Saturday after being flown in to join the BJP in the latest round of defections from West Bengal’s ruling party ahead of the state elections due in April-May.
Mr Shah was to spend the weekend in Kolkata and participate in a rally at Howrah on Sunday where the five politicians were supposed to join his party. However, he had to cancel his visit and draw up this alternative plan.
The leaders met Mr Shah at his home in Delhi along with BJP’s lieutenants for the Bengal fight Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya who announced that they had joined the BJP.
Former TMC leaders Mr. Rajib Banerjee, Ms. Baishali Dalmiya, Mr. Prabir Ghoshal, Mr. Rathin Chakraborti and Mr. Rudranil Ghosh joined BJP today in New Delhi. I am sure their induction will further strengthen BJP’s fight for Sonar Bangla. pic.twitter.com/twXrHXWCbY
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) January 30, 2021
“Mr Amit Shah called me up and said he would like to handover the flag to me himself, so he is sending down a chartered plane to fly me to the capital,” said Rajib Banerjee, former Forest Minister of West Bengal, who resigned from Trinamool yesterday.
Others who left Kolkata by the 4 pm flight are Trinamool MLA from Bali, Baishali Dalmiya, Uttarpara MLA Prabir Ghoshal, Howrah mayor Rathin Chakraborty, and former MLA and five-term civic chief of Ranaghat Partha Sarathi Chatterjee.
Sunday’s mega BJP rally at Dumurjola in Howrah will take place as scheduled, though Mr Shah is likely to join only virtually. Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani will be there, along with other state leaders and the new entrants.
The BJP has openly announced a strategy to poach as many leaders from the Trinamool as possible ahead of the elections that are shaping up to be a high-voltage battle between the two parties. Last month it scooped Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s long-time confidante Suvendu Adhikari.
The Trinamool, which held a poll strategy meeting on Friday, has taken a decision not to focus on the exits but on campaigning instead. The order from the top: Do not abuse and bad mouth those quitting the party as the impact of that on the voter is negative.