Bengal: Suvendu quits TMC, many likely to follow him to BJP; rebels flag anger with Kishor

Suvendu's followers claimed they were in touch with nearly 50 TMC MLAs and many leaders in the party organisation — not just from his strongholds of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur, but also from Hooghly and Burdwan.

West Bengal’s former transport minister Suvendu Adhikari has resigned from the Trinamool Congress, taking the step that is likely to open the floodgates for an exodus from the TMC to the BJP at multiple levels across the state.

About a dozen TMC MLAs and heads of elected bodies are believed to be preparing to resign and walk with Suvendu to the BJP.

Jitendra Tiwari, MLA from Pandabeswar and president of the TMC’s Paschim Bardhaman district unit, resigned from all positions in the party on Thursday.

Suvendu’s followers claimed they were in touch with nearly 50 TMC MLAs and many leaders in the party organisation — not just from his strongholds of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur, but also from Hooghly and Burdwan.

Several rebel TMC MLAs and leaders will join the BJP along with Suvendu at a public meeting presided over by Home Minister Amit Shah in Medinipur over the weekend, sources said. The rest are likely to wait and watch for now.

In his short resignation letter dated December 16, addressed to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Suvendu said he was “thankful for all the challenges and opportunities that has been afforded to me”. Suvendu was a member of the party’s steering committee and state committee, and a leader of its trade union front. Last month, he had quit the Cabinet where he held three important departments.

Tiwari, who quit as chairperson of the board administration of Asansol Municipal Corporation, said he could not stay in the post after Asansol had been deprived of development works. He then resigned from all his posts in the TMC, and claimed that his MLA office in Pandabeswar had been vandalised on the orders of a party leader in Kolkata.

Tiwari, a former chairperson of the Asansol Corporation, had recently written to Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim accusing the government of blocking Rs 2,000 crore of central funds for the smart city project. TMC leaders met with him in Kolkata on Tuesday, but Tiwari backed Suvendu at a public meeting on the following day. Banerjee rang him the same day, and a meeting was fixed on December 18.

After submitting his resignation as MLA to the Speaker on Wednesday, Suvendu had gone to the residence of Sunil Mondal, the TMC MP from Bardhaman Purba. Besides Mondal and Tiwari, several other TMC leaders and MLAs were present there, including Biswajit Kundu, the two-time MLA from Kalna in Purba Bardhaman district, and Col. Diptangshu Chowdhury, the chairman of South Bengal State Transport Corporation.

“The treatment meted out to Suvendu Adhikari is something that a lot of us have suffered. It pains to leave a party that you have served for 22 years,” Kundu told The Indian Express. “BJP is not in power in Bengal; at this point they can’t offer us anything. It is not for posts or any greed that anyone will join BJP. It is because our party has chosen to ignore honest leaders,” he said.

“We are in touch with 50 MLAs, some of whom would join the BJP with Suvendu Adhikari,” Kundu said, but declined to give names. “This is apart from district presidents, block presidents, chairmen and councillors of municipalities, who have started to quit,” he said.

Both Kundu and Mondal mentioned a specific grievance against political strategist Prashant Kishor, who is advising Mamata Banerjee on the Assembly election.

“Our party spent crores to bring in PK (Prashant Kishor). He chose organisational heads in my constituency who do not have a clean record and who are not liked by people. People like us were sidelined. But he seems to knows better than us. So what does the party need me for?” Kundu said.

Mondal said: “There is anger because this is the reality. We became MLA or MP through politics. Prashant Kishor did not make us MLA or MP. The party cannot run in this way.”

Saikat Panja, the TMC MLA from Manteswar in Purba Bardhaman district who is learnt to be in touch with Suvendu, said: “A member of Prashant Kishor’s team has spoken with me, but I am not satisfied. I have not decided yet to leave the party, but I will remain politically inactive until my issues have been resolved,” Panja told The Indian Express.

Shilbhadra Dutta, the two-term TMC MLA from Barrackpore in North 24-Parganas district, refused to speak with Kishor’s team about his candidature for the Assembly elections. Dutta did not take phonecalls from The Indian Express.

At a lower level, six area presidents of the TMC have quit the party in the Bamangola community block of Murshidabad district. A deputy chairman of the local civic body in Dankuni of Hooghly district, and the president of the TMC’s women’s unit at Haldia in East Midnapore district have resigned, too.

State BJP president and Medinipur MP Dilip Ghosh predicted that the “house of TMC will fall like a house of cards”. The party’s Asansol MP Babul Supriyo, however, expressed some reservations about Jitendra Tiwari.

“Many BJP workers in Asansol were heckled by TMC goons whose leader was Jitendra Tiwari. I cannot betray BJP workers,” Supriyo said. In response, Tiwari conceded that he did indeed do a “lot of things then”, and could not “deny my responsibility”. He said he would speak to Supriyo.

Senior TMC leaders sought to put up a brave face. Lok Sabha MP Kalyan Banerjee said: “Good riddance to Suvendu. It is better to have an empty cowshed than a naughty cow.”

Veteran TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee said: “There are thousands of leaders and workers in the party. If one or two or more leaders decide to quit, it will not have any effect at all. Nobody is bigger than the party.”

Since Suvendu escalated his rebellion, several other leaders and MLAs, including Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee, have publicly aired their grievances against the party. However, they have been placated for now, and according to sources they do not have immediate plans of leaving.

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