Five former Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders flew to Delhi on Saturday (January 30) evening and met Home Minister Amit Shah, before joining the BJP ahead of the Bengal assembly polls.
As per the original plan, the five leaders — former minister Rajib Banerjee, Baishali Dalmiya, Prabir Ghoshal, Rathin Chakraborty and Partha Sarathi Chatterjee — were supposed to join the BJP at a rally that was to be attended by Shah in Howrah on Sunday. Shah had to cancel his Bengal visit owing to law and order problem in the national capital, following farmers’ protest at Red Fort on January 26 and the ongoing tension at the borders of Delhi.
The five TMC leaders then flew to Delhi and met Shah at his residence in Delhi. BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and the party’s leader from West Bengal Mukul Roy were also present in the meeting.
“They have joined the BJP,” Vijayvargiya said after the meeting.
Banerjee and MLAs Prabir Ghosal and Baishali Dalmiya, who was recently expelled from the TMC, and former Howrah Mayor Rathin Chakraborty flew to the national capital on a special plane and met the central BJP leaders.
“Amit Shah will send a special plane to fly me to the capital because he personally wants to hand over BJP’s flag to me,” said Rajib Banerjee, an ex-member of Mamata’s cabinet, who quit Trinamool Congress on Friday, had said before making the trip to Delhi.
The chartered flight left Kolkata at 4 pm along with 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.
Former TMC MLA Parthasarathi Chattopadhyay and actor Rudranil Ghosh had also accompanied them on their visit to meet BJP leaders in the national capital.
The TMC, which has been facing dissent from a number of leaders ahead of the assembly election due in April-May, said that those who are leaving do not have long political history.
Earlier in the day, Banerjee said he had a word with Union Home Minister Amit Shah who called him to the national capital. “After I resigned from the TMC, I received a call from the BJP leadership…. Amit Shahji told me to come over to Delhi. He also requested me to pass on the information to five other important public figures who wanted to serve people in a better way to accompany me.
“If I get an assurance on the state’s development, if I get an assurance that I can work for the betterment of people, I will join the BJP,” he told reporters at the Kolkata airport before leaving for Delhi. Asked what role he expects to play in the BJP, Banerjee said it is for the party to decide.
“I want to work for the people. So whatever role is assigned to me, I will accept,” he said. Instead of mudslinging at each other, the Centre and the West Bengal government should work together for the people of the state.
Actor Rudranil Ghosh, who has recently been voicing his discontent over governance in Bengal and alleged corruption in the distribution of monetary compensation to Cyclone Amphan-affected people last year, said he wants to work for people and play an important role in the state in future.
Uttarpara MLA Prabir Ghosal, who recently alleged that repair of a road in his constituency was not being allowed by a faction of the party to harm his poll prospects, told reporters that he would join the BJP.
The BJP has planned a mega rally at Dumurjola in Howrah on Sunday (January 31) with Shah addressing the gathering virtually. Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani will represent the central leadership. Other BJP state leaders and the new members will be present at the rally.
(With agency inputs)