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In Bengal offensive, BJP gets Trinamool lawmaker, says many more in queue


Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi/ Kolkata 

Trinamool Congress MP Saumitra Khan on Wednesday joined the BJP, giving a major political boost to the saffron party in West Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Khan's induction is being seen as upping of its offensive by the BJP with ex-Trinamool heavyweight Mukul Roy, who had himself joined its fold in 2017 after a bitter fallout with Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee, saying it was just a beginning and many more may follow.

Within hours of Khan, a young turk considered close to Roy, joining the BJP in the national capital, Trinamool announced his expulsion, as also that of another young MP Anupam Hazra.

Khan is a Lok Sabha member from the Bishnupur seat in Bankura, while Hazra represents the Bolpur seat in the Birbhum district.

While Hazra has not made public his next political move, Khan joined the BJP after meeting the party chief Amit Shah this afternoon in Delhi, ending weeks of speculations that he had fallen out of favour with the Trinamool leadership and had bleak chances of getting a ticket there.

Lately, Khan was openly critical of Trinamool's leadership, specially Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee. After changing sides, he challenged Banerjee to fight elections against him.

"If Abhishek Banerjee has guts then he should come and fight against me from Bishnupur Lok Sabha seat. I challenge him to fight against me," he said.

Banerjee, a Trinamool MP from Diamond Harbour seat, dismissed Khan's comments, saying people of West Bengal will give him a befitting reply in Lok Sabha polls and he will lose his deposits.

Khan is the first bigshot Mukul Roy loyalist to change sides and there are still many more within the party.

"It is just the beginning. There are many others in queue. Just wait and watch," Roy told PTI.

However, Mamata Banerjee's party sought to downplay the development. "We have decided to expel both Soumitra Khan and Anupam Hazra from the party for being involved in anti-party activities," TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said.

Khan, a former Congress legislator, joined the Trinamool months before the 2014 general elections. Mukul Roy, the then number two in the Trinamool, inducted him to the party. He was also given responsibility of heading its youth wing.

It is believed that Khan will help the BJP in expanding base in tribal areas of Bankura, where BJP has made steady inroads during the last Panchayat polls and emerged as the main opposition to Mamata Banerjee's party.

Khan secured 45.51 per cent votes in the last elections, whereas the BJP candidate in his seats got 14.11 per cent of the total votes polled. His nearest candidate was from CPM with 33.74 per cent votes.

Hazra, the other expelled lawmaker, was a professor of the coveted Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan. He was handpicked by Mamata Banerjee as party's candidate for Bolpur Lok Sabha seat in 2014.

But since the beginning of his tenure as MP, his relationship with party's Birbhum district president Anubrata Mandal was strained. He often took to Facebook, posting controversial statements and was cautioned several time but he remained defiant.

Reacting to his expulsion, Hazra said, "I am not aware why I have been expelled from the party. Does making Facebook posts make you a criminal? I don't know."

Following this, the strength of the TMC in Lok Sabha has reduced from 34 to 32.

The BJP has identified West Bengal as one of the priority states and party chief Amit Shah had set a target of 22 seats. It had won two of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 20:36 IST