Anti-defection law takes centre stage in Bengal politics; BJP and Trinamul hunt defectors
The anti-defection law has taken centre stage in Bengal politics with bitter rivals Trinamul Congress and the BJP demanding its invocation against deserters.
Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, on Monday sought governor Jagdeep Dhankhar’s intervention amid fears in the state BJP of an exodus of its MLAs to Trinamul.
Mamata Banerjee’s party also demanded before Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla that the law be used against Suvendu’s father and Contai MP Sisir Adhikari, and Burdwan East MP Sunil Mandal, as both had won on Trinamul tickets but defected to the BJP shortly before the Assembly elections.
Suvendu’s move — tagged frantic even by sections in his own party — was prompted by the return to Trinamul of Krishnagar North MLA Mukul Roy, a national vice-president of the BJP.
The BJP fears that Roy’s ghar-wapsi could prompt at least a dozen MLAs to follow him, besides several MPs and countless leaders, office-bearers and workers.
Sections within the BJP — where dislike of Trinamul turncoat Suvendu’s sudden ascent has become rife — admitted the “blatant ethical hypocrisy” in his ruckus for use of the anti-defection law.
“It is good Suvendu has raised this issue with the governor. But he, least of all, has the moral standing to go to town over something like this. His father and his aide (MP Mandal) defected without resigning as MPs. His MP brother (Trinamul’s Tamluk MP Dibyendu Adhikari) almost did the same, and everybody knows what his leanings are,” said a BJP state office-bearer.
“Suvendu’s braggadocio over the anti-defection law would have suited him had he not been so conspicuously silent on an identical offence by Sisirda and Sunil in the Lok Sabha,” he said.
The office-bearer pointed out further that Suvendu, while in Trinamul was a “master-engineer” of defections from the Left and the Congress, bleeding them white on his home turf, besides districts he was in charge of, such as Murshidabad and Malda. “He tried doing the same for us, ahead of the election, with passable success,” he added.
Hours before the Suvendu-led delegation’s visit to the Raj Bhavan, Trinamul’s leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay, once again called up Speaker Birla, demanding action against Sisir and Mandal.
The Calcutta North MP later said Birla had told him that a committee had been formed to look into the matter and both the MPs would be asked to appear before it.
“I will also have to appear before the committee... the Speaker told me. I replied that I’m well equipped with all the proof of defection to do so,” said Bandyopadhyay.
At the Raj Bhavan, Suvendu led a group of 50 of his party’s 70-odd MLAs in the 294-seat Assembly to submit a memorandum to Dhankhar, urging him to ensure the use of the law in the state.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Suvendu said Dhankhar was told that the anti-defection law had not been used in Bengal in 10 years of the Trinamul regime.
“The MLA of Krishnanagar North has quit our party. We want him to resign from his MLA post in two days. If that doesn’t happen, we shall go to the Speaker. We will write to him by Wednesday and request him to take necessary action. If that doesn’t work, we will move court...” Suvendu said. He added that central BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav and Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad would look into the matter.
Asked to react to Trinamul’s request to the Lok Sabha Speaker regarding the membership of his father and aide, Suvendu said he could speak only regarding MLAs and not MPs, without clarifying why it was so.
The Left and the Congress, the main Opposition in the previous Assembly, had made numerous requests to Speaker Biman Banerjee to use the law and cancel the membership of 18 members who had defected to Trinamul and of eight others defectors to the BJP. None was disqualified. The Congress and the Left had also jointly moved court, but the matter remained pending.
Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta — who contested unsuccessfully on a BJP ticket from the Tarakeswar Assembly seat this summer — took to Twitter asserting that not everybody who had joined the BJP after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls ought to be treated as a Trojan horse.
“It is wrong to view everyone who joined BJP in Bengal after May 2019 as Trojan horses. Many new entrants participated in the election with sincerity. They must not be made to feel unwelcome. Politics is not a game of exclusion; it involves adding support & creating new leaders,” he tweeted.
“As for those who see a political party as a vehicle of personal gratification alone, the door is always open to explore other options,” he added in striking contrast to the opinion of state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh and his predecessor Tathagata Roy.