Huge setback for Mamata as ex-Bengal minister Adhikari joins BJP

Kolkata: When federal Home Minister and former national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sat down to break bread at the humble courtyard of a farmer’s minimalist thatched-roof house in Midnapore, it was much more than a mere luncheon break in the BJP heavyweight’s two-day tour of West Bengal.

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While it was undoubtedly high on optics, with the irony not lost on the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the federal government on the outskirts of Delhi, Shah’s frugal vegetarian lunch menu comprising rice, ‘roti’ dal, ‘lauki’, cauliflower, poppadum and sweets was in stark contrast to the ‘sumptuous platter’ of sorts that was already being laid out at the Midnapore College Ground, barely 10km away from Shah’s lunch venue, where more than a dozen representatives from across the socio-political spectrum in Bengal, including from the state’s minority community, were all set to officially switch their allegiance to the saffron brigade.

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The icing on that cake obviously being Suvendu Adhikari, former transport minister of Bengal and once a close confidante of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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The writing has been on the wall for the last several months. Speculations and rumours turned into a distinct possibility ever since he resigned from Mamata’s Cabinet as the transport minister, and then stepped down as a member of the Legislative Assembly and gave up the primary membership of Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party.

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Finally, when Adhikari ceremoniously joined BJP at a public rally in Midnapore College Ground, in the presence of Amit Shah on Saturday, it was like putting the final touches to the changing political fortunes of this highly influential leader, and thereby undoubtedly marking the biggest setback for Mamata and TMC in their almost decade-long rule in West Bengal.

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Along with Adhikari, one sitting and one former TMC member of parliament and five sitting TMC MLAs switched sides on Saturday at Shah’s rally. There were defections from other parties as well as two sitting MLAs from Congress and one sitting MLA each from Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (CPI) joined BJP. Apart from them, six minority leaders from the state also officially announced their decision to join the BJP in Shah’s presence.

###Shah rules out president's rule in Bengal###

What comes as a massive embarrassment to Mamata and TMC is the fact that among those who announced their decisions to switch to BJP on Saturday is Kabirul Islam, the general secretary of the TMC minority cell in West Bengal.

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At exactly 12.12pm on Saturday, as Shah’s helicopter landed at the helipad in Midnapore for the BJP heavyweight’s day-long visit to the district, there were telling images being flashed across live television screens – that of a 15-car convoy leaving the Kolaghat Guest House and heading towards Midnapore College Ground. It was widely reported that several political leaders and members who had been kept in ‘quarantine’ at the guest house for the last couple of days to prevent them from swinging back to TMC and other parties, were headed towards Shah’s rally at Midnapore College Ground to formally announce their entry into BJP.

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Later in the day, this only turned out to be true as nine sitting MLAs from different parties, and one sitting MP and one former MP from TMC formally switched sides and joined BJP. What should come as a huge shot in the arm for the BJP’s Bengal and central units is the fact that the spate of defections was not just restricted to the ruling TMC, but alo came from Congress and even the Left parties.

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