Kolkata: In a major setback for Mamata Banerjee - Trinamool Congress (TMC) strongman and Bhatpara MLA Arjun Singh joined the BJP in the presence of senior leaders, including Kailash Vijayvargiya, in New Delhi on Thursday. Before joining the saffron party, Singh had a long meeting with BJP leader Mukul Roy in Delhi.
Addressing the media, Singh said, “I worked for the last 40 years under Mamata Banerjee ji. But I was extremely disappointed when she questioned the credibility of the Indian Army after the Balakot strike. When the entire country was speaking in one voice against Pakistan, she was questioning the intention of the Prime Minister. It was very unfortunate.”
“I personally feel that there is nothing called good and bad in politics. Rajniti (politics) means ‘Samjhauta’ (compromise). People were angry with the sitting MP because of his disconnect with them. Therefore, I have expressed my desire to contest from Barrackpore. Today, I am happy to announce that I have joined the BJP,” Singh said.
Singh is an extremely popular leader in Bhatpara as well as in all the seven constituents of Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency. Banerjee has given the Barrackpore ticket to sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi, even though Singh had openly demanded the ticket for the Lok Sabha poll.
In Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency, a sizable number of voters (nearly 56%) — who could be the decisive factor — are Hindi speaking and Singh could hold the key to the area. Singh had worked at the ground level to mobilise Hindi-speaking voters in favour of the TMC. The party secured most of the seats from Panchayat, Municipal to Parliamentary polls since 2009.
He also actively worked hard for TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi in all the previous polls where the latter was the candidate. Singh has been the game-changer for TMC but with his switch to the BJP now, it will not be an easy task for Trivedi to win the seat.
A party insider claimed that Singh has very good relations with all the MLAs of Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituents (Amdanga, Bijpur, Naihati, Bhatpara, Jagatdal, Noapara and Barrackpore). This, coupled with a solid Hindi-speaking vote base, will help him create a comfortable space to fight against Trivedi.
The TMC leadership is already facing the ire of other district leaders over ticket distribution. Many feel that the shifting of senior party MLAs and MPs to BJP will be a big challenge before the TMC to achieve ‘42 seats’ in this Lok Sabha.
Three TMC MPs — Mukul Roy, Saumitra Khan and Anupam Hazra — have already switched over to the BJP and many more are likely to join in the coming days. After releasing the candidate list on Wednesday, Mamata Banerjee had said: “Those who want to leave the party, they can leave. I don’t care. One day, they will understand what kind of party BJP is.”