Mitali Roy, a former Trinamul MLA of Dhupguri, joined the BJP on Sunday, two days ahead of the bypoll in the Assembly seat.
Mitali, who was present at the public meeting of Trinamul’s national general secretary on Saturday afternoon, received the BJP's flag from the party’s state chief Sukanta Majumdar in the presence of other leaders on Sunday morning.
“For the past three years, I was forced to sit idle. I had no identity in Trinamul and a section of leaders were stopping me from carrying out political activities. These days, Rajbanshis have had to face insults from Trinamul leaders. That is why I decided to join the BJP,” said the former MLA.
That the bypoll, which would be held on September 5, is an acid test for Majumdar, the state BJP president, is clear as since August 29, he and the state general secretary (organisation) of the party Amitava Chakraborty parked themselves in the poll-bound constituency.
This election, party insiders said, can serve as the duo’s chance to prove that the Bengal BJP under their leadership can win polls.
Since September 2021, when Majumdar was put in the state president’s post, the saffron party has not wrested a single win in any of the Assembly bypolls held in Bengal.
In all the seven bypolls held in constituencies Bhowanipore, Dinhata, Khardah, Santipur, Gosaba, Ballygunge and Sagardighi, the BJP was defeated and even pushed to the third spot in two cases.
Similarly, in the 2022 civic polls, the BJP performed rather poorly and could win only 65 seats, while the Left won 68 seats. The party failed to form a board in any of the municipalities, as compared to the Left, which now runs the Taherpur municipality, and the Congress, which won the Jhalda municipality.
“The BJP's performance in rural polls this year was better than the other elections. However several veterans, including former state chief Dilip Ghosh, have said that it wasn't up to the mark. With the Lok Sabha elections ahead, the party is keen to retain the Dhupguri seat and thus putting in every effort,” said an observer.
Shishir Bajoria, a senior BJP leader, filed a complaint with the election commission to exert pressure on Trinamul.
“Abhishek Banerjee has violated the model code of conduct by announcing the creation of a new subdivision in Dhupguri (on Saturday). He is a mere MP of Trinamul and has no authority to announce decisions of the Bengal government,” said Bajoria.
In Dhupguri, the sudden decision of the state BJP leadership to induct Mitali, from the Rajbanshi community that forms around 60 per cent of the voters here, has not gone down well with local BJP leaders.
A number of leaders demonstrated at the BJP office and some of them even left the office in protest.
“It seems the leadership is not very confident about its prospects this time and thus they had to orchestrate the defection of Mitali Roy. We are doubtful if this defection will serve anything more than optics,” said a disgruntled BJP leader.
The bypoll, senior BJP functionaries said, is important as north Bengal is popularly known as a stronghold of the party. BJP leader Bishnupada Roy was the MLA here till his demise necessitated the bypoll.
“A defeat will reveal fissures in the organisation and the anti-Majumdar factions of the party will get stronger,” said a senior leader.
Majumdar, however, sounded confident that Tapasi Roy, the wife of a slain CRPF jawan whom the party has fielded as a candidate, would win.
“Mitali Roy’s presence will strengthen our party. We are sure that people here will vote the BJP,” he said.
In the Trinamul camp, there was hardly any major murmur over Mitali's defection.
Actress-turned-MP Mimi Chakraborty and state minister Firhad Hakim at a road show organised in support of the Trinamul candidate, in Dhupguri on Sunday
“She was not given a ticket this time as there were certain allegations against her. We are not concerned about her. People here have made their decision and they will prove it on September 5,” said state minister and Trinamul leader Firhad Hakim, who campaigned in Dhupguri with actress-turned-MP Mimi Chakraborty.
The Left and BJP leaders also campaigned extensively on Sunday in the constituency.
Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, along with some MLAs and MPs of the BJP, reached Banarhat and met tea workers. They also lunched at the house of a tea worker.
“It is yet another gimmick. The BJP and the Centre have not done anything for the tea workers. The tea population will give them a befitting reply,” said Mahua Gope, the district Trinamul president of Jalpaiguri, reacting to Adhikari's tea and lunch.
Additional reporting by our Jalpaiguri correspondent