Former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee who joined the BJP in Delhi on Wednesday.
Kolkata: Ending months of speculation, former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and his close friend Baisakhi Banerjee joined the BJP at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Before joining, the two met BJP leaders Arvind Menon and Mukul Roy. While Sovan is the MLA from Behala East assembly constituency, Baisakhi was a former TMC leader and headed its education cell.
Interestingly, actress-cum-TMC leader Debashree Roy was also present at the BJP headquarters but was not seen on the dais even as Chatterjee and Banerjee were officially inducted into the party.
“I am happy to join the BJP as I believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and Amit Shah’s determination in making a strong India,” Chatterjee said.
In November last year, Chatterjee, once a close aide of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, resigned as Kolkata Mayor over alleged differences with her.
It was learnt that Banerjee, over the last year, had been was unhappy with his lack of interest in day-to-day administrative and civic responsibilities due to a divorce battle with wife Ratna. At an event organised by the Fire Department in Kolkata last year, the chief minister had come down heavily on Sovan.
Both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had interrogated Chatterjee a few times in connection with the Narada sting scam. The Kolkata mayor was allegedly shown in the tapes accepting money from a businessman and then wrapping the case in a towel.
In June last year, Chatterjee, whose proposed development plans in the East Kolkata wetlands was criticised by environmentalists, was removed from the Environment ministry.
Welcoming Chatterjee, Roy said he was one of those leaders who has made a big contribution to Banerjee’s rise to the post of chief minister. “He will now strengthen the BJP… Let me repeat that TMC will not even get the status of the opposition party,” Roy said.
Six TMC MLAs, and one each of Congress and CPI(M) have switched over to the BJP since the results of Lok Sabha elections were announced in May, with the saffron party wooing rival party leaders to bolster its strength in the run up to the next Assembly polls in the state due in 2021.
The BJP made deep inroads in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls by winning 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, just four less than the TMC.
Known for his organisational capabilities and his ability to manage finances, Chatterjee was in the top echelons of TMC and was a trusted lieutenant of Banerjee. He had been a councillor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation for three decades, served as mayor of Kolkata twice, besides being a minister before going on a sabbatical since 2018.
According to TMC old-timers, Banerjee had played a key role in shaping his political career, which like her had begun as a Youth Congress activist. Banerjee used to publicly call him by his pet name ‘Kanon’.
Seated beside top BJP leaders in New Delhi at the party’s headquarters on Wednesday, Chatterjee criticised the “violence and undemocratic atmosphere” in which the 2018 panchayat polls were conducted in the state.
Chatterjee will be expelled: TMC
The Trinamool Congress, which received a jolt by Chatterjee’s defection, said it will expel him from the party, according to sources.
TMC alleged that ever since CBI and Enforcement Directorate started probe against their leaders in Narada and Saradha scam some party leaders are desperate to reach out to BJP to save themselves.
According to a senior TMC leader, efforts were on to bring back Chatterjee to the party fold, who had taken sabbatical from active politics since last year due to personal reasons.
“He will be expelled from the TMC. The party is yet to make a final announcement,” a senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.
“We never thought Sovan would ultimately join the BJP. It is true that BJP leaders were in touch with him, but we never believed that he could betray Mamata Banerjee, whom he used to describe as ‘maa’ (mother),” said a senior TMC leader said.
“His joining will have a bearing on the TMC’s organisation in South 24 Paraganas district and also on Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections slated to be held next year. The party missed his political and organisation acumen during the Lok Sabha polls,” said another TMC leader.
(With inputs from PTI)
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