Bolpur, Aug. 20: The BJP today took control of a Trinamul office in Birbhum, tasting blood for the first time in the battle to occupy party properties in a district that is witnessing a fierce turf war between the two parties.
Around 200 BJP supporters who crossed over from Trinamul last month arrived at the office in Dharmarajtala village, 8km from Santiniketan, armed with party flags and banners and told ruling party cadres to open it.
A local BJP leader said that before “taking control” of the one-storey building, which Trinamul had allegedly taken over from the RSP in similar fashion in 2009, the BJP workers handed over Trinamul flags, festoons and photographs of Mamata Banerjee to the ruling party activists.
The building had been constructed illegally on government land in 2009 by RSP leaders and workers. After the 2011 Assembly polls, a large number of RSP workers defected to Trinamul, which took control of the building.
But since the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, in which the BJP significantly improved its performance in the district, there has been a steady flow of Left and Trinamul workers to the party. In the Bolpur parliamentary seat, the BJP bagged 15.5 per cent of the votes compared with 7.2 per cent in 2009. In the Bolpur Assembly segment, the BJP got 18 per cent votes, up from 7.6 per cent in 2009.
The BJP denied using force while taking over the Trinamul office.
“We did not hurt anybody. Many villagers have switched over to the BJP from Trinamul after the Lok Sabha polls. Today, the villagers drove them away and set up a BJP office in the building,” said Amar Das, a local BJP leader.
When this correspondent visited the building this afternoon, it was decorated with BJP flags.
“Earlier, we used to support Trinamul. But after Nemai Das (who allegedly led the BJP group today) and several others joined the BJP in July, we followed them. Trinamul used to control this area till the Lok Sabha polls. But now, a large number of villagers have switched over to the BJP,” said Uday Saha, a BJP worker from neighbouring Gopinathpur village.
Trinamul leader Mahadeb Roy, known to be close to Birbhum unit chief Anubrata Mondal, said the party would lodge a police complaint.
Mondal refused comment. “I will speak to local party leaders before saying anything.”
Nemai Das, a former Trinamul block president, denied the allegation of grabbing the party office. “BJP workers did not drive away the Trinamul men. The Trinamul workers abandoned the party office,” Nemai Das said.
No police complaint has been lodged.
No political party can set up an office on government land.
Bengal BJP chief Rahul Sinha said the party had not forcibly occupied any party office. “We have gained control of 250 Left, Congress and Trinamul offices across the state because of large-scale defections,” he said.