NEW DELHI: Former Union minister Babul Supriyo's surprise move to join Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress on Saturday evoked strong political reactions in West Bengal.
While the BJP accused the Trinamool of luring its leaders with money and threats, Mamata's party hit back reminding the BJP of poaching its leaders before the assembly elections in the state.
Ahead of the assembly elections in West Bengal, several Trinamool leaders had switched sides to the BJP. In fact, BJP's leader in the assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, is a close ex-aide of Mamata.
However, after the Trinamool's emphatic win in the assembly elections, several leaders are now returning to Mamata's fold.
BJP says 'this is not politics'; Trinamool says 'more to follow'
Senior BJP leader and the party's national secretary Rahul Sinha said: "This cannot be politics. To lure people with money and power or threaten people with police and agencies and bring them into the party fold cannot be healthy politics. The BJP is an organisation-based party that runs on certain ethics and principles. So we are not bothered about it."
He called Supriyo's exit "a temporary shock" and said the BJP will surely get over it.
Trinamool Congress spokesperson Kunal Ghosh countered Rahul Sinha and said: "What the BJP did before the elections was ethical politics? They were taking our people and now when the process has reversed, they have suddenly become concerned about ethics and principles. They are getting the same return and they will see it again."
The Trinamool Congress has claimed that more leaders from the BJP will join the ruling party in West Bengal.
Trinamool MP and veteran leader Sougata Roy told the media, "After the Assembly elections, four BJP MLAs and one MP have joined the Trinamool Congress and more are likely to follow. There are many big names in the BJP who are waiting. This is the beginning of the end of BJP. No right-thinking people can stay there."
'Babul is an opportunist'
Meanwhile, the BJP called its two-time MP from Asansol who had to resign from the Union ministry on July 7 an opportunist.
"Babul Supriyo left the party after he was left without a portfolio and this proves that he was in the party only for gains. Now he is with the Trinamool Congress because, perhaps, they have promised something big. He is an opportunist. He has not only betrayed the party, but also the people of his constituency. One thing I can say is that the BJP will again get an MP from Asansol," BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.
The CPM and the Congress also targeted the singer-turned-politician.
CPM leader Sujan Chakrborty said, "The person who was all praise for Narendra Modi and had accused Mamata Banerjee has suddenly changed colour. Mamata Banerjee has suddenly become an extraordinary leader. Is this politics? This is business. Trinamool Congress has offered him a better bet, so he is with them. If tomorrow any other party offers him something better, it will take two minutes for him to leave Trinamool."
West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: "This is not politics. This is like going to a shop and asking for offers. The shop that gives the best offer, I buy from there. There is neither any ethics nor there is any principle and I find no difference between Trinamool Congress and the BJP."
'Excited about joining the TMC'
Babul Supriyo, who was dropped from the Union Cabinet two months ago, had then announced to quit politics.
In a Facebook post, he had said that there was a difference of opinion between him and the state BJP leaders and that the difference of opinion among senior leaders was "harming the party".
Supriyo had then also said that he will no longer do active politics.
Justifying his change of stand, Supriyo said: "When I had said two months back that I want to quit politics, I was serious about it. After getting this new opportunity, however, I decided to change my mind."
Addressing a press conference which lasted barely 10 minutes, Supriyo said he is excited about joining the TMC and will work for the development of West Bengal.
"I am very excited about joining the TMC. I will work for the development of Bengal," he said.
"Of course, naturally. I will go by the rulebook," he said when asked if he will resign from the Lok Sabha.
Supriyo said he will meet West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee on Monday.
"I am grateful to Abhishek Banerjee and Mamata Banerjee for giving me a big opportunity to work for the state and serve the people," he said.
(With inputs from agencies)