It’s catch-22 for the party as it encouraged large-scale defections before Assembly elections
The show of strength the West Bengal BJP planned on Monday to highlight the post-poll violence turned a major embarrassment as one third of the MLAs did not turn up for the meeting with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. The party won 77 seats but two of the legislators, who are Lok Sabha MPs, did not take oath as MLAs.
The defection of party vice-president Mukul Roy to the Trinamool Congress last week has already resulted in speculation of more MLAs and leaders following suit.
The Trinamool leadership was quick to point out at the “missing MLAs”. “All the MLAs did not go and meet the Governor. Why did the 24 MLAs not go. The BJP should investigate this,” TMC leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said.
State party president Dilip Ghosh on Tuesday said the decision was to take 31 MLAs but many more arrived, so the number swelled to 51. He said the defectors have come with the tide and their decision will not hurt the party.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari has been emphasising that he will ensure that they are disqualified as per the anti-defection law.
The BJP finds itself in a catch-22 situation. It had encouraged defections before the elections where about 30 TMC MLAs had joined the party. What makes the situation more complicated is two TMC MPs who defected to the BJP have not resigned from the Lok Sabha. One of them is Mr. Adhikari’s father Sisir Adhikari. “Suvendu should go and share the wisdom of anti-defection law with his father,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said on Tuesday.
Defections have been a regular phenomenon in the State politics for the past 10 years. Between 2011 to 2021, dozens of MLAs of the Congress and a few from the Left joined the Trinamool.
Political observer Biswanath Chakraborty said 14 Congress MLAs and three from the Left joined the TMC between 2016 and 2021 and none was disqualified.
“When the BJP used defections as a political tool, it might not have thought of such a situation. It does not have a moral high ground and as far as disqualification is concerned it is up to the Speaker,” says Prof. Chakrborty, who teaches political science at the Rabindra Bharati University.
Besides the MLAs, several leaders like Rajib Banerjee and Prabir Ghosal are sending feelers to the TMC that they want to return. Former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee is also doing so.
For the BJP, the problem is also the bickering among its leadership. One of the senior most leaders and former Governor of Meghalaya Tathagata Roy has been regularly targeting the leadership. Soon after Mr. Mukul Roy’s return to the TMC, Mr. Roy targeted Kaliash Vijayvargiya, BJP national general secretary who is the central observer to West Bengal.
“Auntie [Buaji] Mamata, please take this stupid cat into Trinamool. He may be heartbroken missing his friend! They used to remain closeted together for the whole day,” Mr. Roy had tweeted in Bengali sharing the photograph of Mr. Mukul Roy and Mr. Vijayvargiya. The former Governor had described Mr. Mukul Roy as a “Trojan horse”. He repeatedly accused the party leadership of not standing by the supporters when they are being subjected to political violence.