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Bloc leaders drop BJP switchover hint

Calcutta, July 13: Two Forward Bloc leaders overseeing the youth wing of the Left party are set to join the BJP, Rahul Sinha said today.

Although Yuva League state president Ajoy Agnihotri and its general secretary Anirban Chowdhury said they were still “in talks” with the BJP, state BJP president Sinha insisted that the two would join the party on July 20 along with 1,500 supporters.

The Bloc leaders said the Left had become “irrelevant in Bengal and in other parts of the country” and were unhappy at the way “the organisation is being run”.

The possible switchovers come at a time the BJP has seen a steady stream of defectors from the Left and Trinamul join the organisation as it tries to establish itself as the principal Opposition in Bengal.

“The Yuva League president and the general secretary will join us on July 20 with nearly 1,500 supporters. We have organised a separate venue for the event as our state office won’t accommodate such a huge number of people together,” Sinha said this evening.

Sinha, who had last week announced that nearly 2 lakh people had joined the BJP as primary members since the Lok Sabha polls in May, today said that Left leaders switching over to the BJP was “significant”.

“It is so because Left leaders and workers are choosing us over the ruling Trinamul. The rate at which people are joining the BJP, the day is not far when we will become the principal Opposition,” he added.

Agnihotri and Chowdhury said they had resigned from their key posts in Yuva League on June 23, and quit as Bloc members on July 1. While Chowdhury was a Bloc state committee member, Agnihotri was a member of the party’s Calcutta district secretariat.

Asked if he would join the BJP, Chowdhury said: “The BJP is a national party. We have no qualms against joining it. But a final decision is yet to be taken.”

“The Left has become irrelevant in Bengal and in other parts of the country. So, we are exploring options at this juncture,” he added.

Agnihotri said: “We are keeping a watch on the developments and are busy talking to other Bloc members who resigned from the party last month. We quit the Forward Bloc to protest the manner in which the organisation is being run these days.”

The comments by the two leaders come at a time around 2,000 Bloc leaders have joined the BJP since the Lok Sabha polls.

Bloc state secretariat member Naren Chatterjee said Agnihotri and Chowdhury had been expelled from the party “for hobnobbing with the BJP”.

“We have enough proof that the two were in talks with the BJP despite holding organisational posts in Yuva League,” he said.

According to sources, Left leaders across the state were rushing to the BJP for shelter in the face of alleged Trinamul attacks. “What to do? Our leadership is hardly doing anything for our safety,” a CPM leader said in East Midnapore.

A section of Lakshman Seth loyalists in the district had a couple of weeks ago said they would join the BJP. Seth, a former CPM MLA expelled from the party, had said he had been approached by the BJP, but had evaded a direct reply when asked if he would join the party.

After its improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls, a number of dissidents from all political parties are joining the BJP across the state. In Birbhum, six rebel Trinamul panchayat members and Hriday Ghosh, whose father Sagar was shot dead four days after a provocative speech by Anubrata Mondal, joined the BJP along with 5,000 supporters.

Asked about the possible defections by the Bloc leaders, Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said: “Forward Bloc hardly has any presence in Bengal. In the Lok Sabha polls, the party has failed to get a single seat. So, it matters little for us if Bloc members join BJP.”

Kabir ‘sidelined’

Former Trinamul junior minister Humayun Kabir today said he was being “feeling in the party” after singer Indranil Sen was tasked with overseeing the organisation in Murshidabad.

Kabir said he would come to Calcutta tomorrow and speak to Mukul Roy on the matter. He ruled out joining the BJP.