In a new low in Indian politics, opposition legislators are beelining to respective ruling parties in West Bengal and Assam within four months of government formation in both the states.
Four BJP MLAs, including party’s national vice president Mukul Roy, have so far joined the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. In Assam, where the BJP is in power, the trend is reversed for the party with MLAs flocking to it unlike in neighbouring West Bengal where they are deserting the party.
Two Congress and one All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) legislators donned the BJP’s saffron colour in the past months.
The current defections in both the states are purely motivated by the lure of power yet there are at least two significant differences in the party hopping trend witnessed in West Bengal and Assam.
Besides Mukul Roy, BJP’s Bishnupur MLA Tanmay Ghosh, Bagda MLA Biswajit Das and Kaliaganj MLA Soumen Roy have switched loyalties post the April-May assembly elections. All the four had gone to the BJP from the TMC.
The defections in Bengal so far are essentially a “gharwapasis” or the return of the “ghorer chele (family member)” as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee put it after Roy came back to the TMC.
“Those who are deserting us now had joined the party from the TMC hoping they would get something if the BJP came to power. Since we have failed to fulfil their expectations, they are returning to the TMC. One way it is good for us,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told media persons.
The defections brought down the BJP’s strength in the assembly to 71. The party had won 77 seats in the assembly elections. Earlier, two BJP MPs Jagannath Sarkar and Nisith Pramanik, who had successfully contested the assembly elections, gave up their MLA seats to remain in Parliament.
Several other BJP MLAs and an MP Sunil Mondal are sending feelers to switch sides, the TMC sources claim. Besides, many TMC turncoats like Rajib Banerjee, Sonali Guha, Sarala Murmu, Dipendu Biswas, and Sabyasachi Dutta who lost elections, are singing different tunes in the BJP.
Putting up a brave front, Ghosh said the party would not be affected by a few people leaving it. The party, however, has initiated discussions with disgruntled leaders and MLAs to dissuade them from bolting. But even such persuasions seem to be failing to keep the BJP flock together.
The party’s state general secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakravorty last week reportedly had a long “fruitful discussion” with Soumen Roy, who was later seen attending a BJP meeting last Wednesday. Two days later, he was in the TMC camp.
Incidentally, none of the four BJP legislators resigned from the assembly before joining the TMC.
BJP legislature party leader Suvendu Adhikari said legal action would be taken against the defectors under the anti-defection law.
Showing no regard for the law or the convention, Mukul Roy went to the extent of becoming the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). As per the convention the post should go to an opposition MLA.
This shrinking of opposition space, professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University Biswanath Chakraborty argued, is turning the state into a “ruling party society.”
In Assam, Congress MLAs Sushanta Borgohain and Rupjyoti Kurmi and AIUDF legislator Phani Talukdar recently joined the BJP. Titabor Congress MLA Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah shared a dais with Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal at a BJP programme last month sparking speculation of his joining the saffron camp.
Unlike in West Bengal, all the three MLAs had resigned from the assembly before switching loyalties. Moreover, there is no case of “gharwapasi” in Assam.
Nonetheless, it is politics of opportunism in play in both the states where ruling parties won comfortable majorities and yet are engineering defections.
The TMC won 213 of the 292 seats that went to polls. In Assam BJP-led NDA alliance won 75 of the state’s 126 assembly seats.