18:46 GMT17 June 2021
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    Fearing a change in government, scores of political leaders and legislators from the TMC defected to the BJP ahead of the elections. Despite fighting one of the most highly polarised and communal elections, the BJP fell well short.

    After facing a humiliating defeat in the recent West Bengal state elections, several political leaders who switched loyalties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are now trying to return to opposition leader Mamata Banerjee's fold.

    Ahead of the elections, the BJP managed to poach 25 legislators and senior leaders from Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC). The saffron party successfully snared Banerjee's top leaders including Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy. 

    According to reports, at least 148 defectors from the TMC, including sitting MLAs, were given tickets to fight the election but only six of them managed to secure victory. The move to prioritise defectors when handing out election tickets infuriated long-time BJP members.

    Banerjee took oath on 2 May for her third term as state chief after winning 213 of 292 seats. The BJP bagged 77.

    Many leaders have since expressed their desire to return to Banerjee's fold. Four-time TMC legislator Sonali Guha, who joined the BJP before the elections, issued a public apology on Twitter to Banerjee. Guha was Banerjee's confidante and was recently seen at the funeral of the state chief's brother.

    Two former TMC leaders – Sarala Murmu and Amal Acharjee – said they also want to rejoin the TMC. Both switched to the BJP after they were denied tickets to contest from their constituencies. Recently, former footballer and legislator Dipendu Biswas quit the BJP in protest against the arrest of Bengal ministers in the Narada bribery case

    Sources say at least 12 legislators and up to four lawmakers from the BJP are in touch with the TMC high command about rejoining the party. Former legislator Rajib Banerjee, who dramatically stormed out of the state assembly with a big photo of Mamata Banerjee before jumping ship to the BJP, is now trying to return to the TMC, sources confirmed to Sputnik.

    Banerjee says her party is willing to keep its doors open to defectors. After securing victory, she publicly said, "those who had left the party will be welcomed if they want to return''.

    "The party has received so many letters and requests that it would require a separate room to store them. But right now we are not going to indulge in politics. Our partymen and the Bengal government are trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and Cyclone Yaas situation. Everything else can wait," TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya told Sputnik.

    BJP Vice President and turncoat Mukul Roy reportedly held a discussion with TMC General Secretary Subrata Bakshi right after taking oath as a legislator. Roy's son Subhranshu – also a BJP leader – criticised his party and said "self-criticism is more necessary than criticising a government elected by people." The Hindu nationalist party's leader from West Bengal Dilip Ghosh responded saying, "Someone can express a personal opinion. BJP’s policies are not decided by Facebook posts."

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    Tags:
    Sputnik, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Election, Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal
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