Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh addresses media after joining Trinamool Congress party. Photo:ANI
Kolkata: In yet another body-blow to the beleaguered saffron camp in West Bengal, BJP MP Arjun Singh on Sunday rejoined the Trinamool Congress, calling it a “homecoming” to his former party with which “problems have now been sorted”.
Singh, the BJP state vice-president, was welcomed into the ruling party by national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee at his office in south Kolkata.
"Extending a warm welcome to Shri@ArjunsinghWB, who rejected the divisive forces at @BJP4Indiaand joined the @AITCofficial family today. People across the nation are suffering and they need us now more than ever. Let's keep the fight alive!" Banerjee said in a tweet.
Singh, who had been a part of the TMC since its inception in 1998, said “some misunderstandings” made him sever ties with the party three years ago.
"The problems have now been sorted out, and we will work as one family under the leadership of (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee," he said.
One of the prominent Hindi-speaking leaders of the TMC, Singh had joined the saffron camp ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, and went on to win from the Barrackpore LS seat.
The BJP unit in the state has been fighting hard to keep its flock together after former Union minister Babul Supriyo and five legislators, including national vice-president Mukul Roy, switched over to the TMC since the assembly poll results last year.
Several senior TMC leaders like Rajib Banerjee and Sabyasachi Dutta, who had joined the saffron camp, too, returned to the Mamata Banerjee-led party.
On why he chose to quit the BJP, Singh said the Union government was neglecting the jute industry of West Bengal, an allegation he has been making in the last few weeks.
"Despite my protest over the Centre's jute policy, nothing much has been achieved. The government recently took a step, but that is only a minor measure. We still have a long way to go," he said.
Singh's comments come days after he thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Textiles Minister Piyush Goyal after the Centre announced its decision to withdraw the notification capping raw jute prices at Rs 6,500 per quintal, a demand he and other industry stakeholders had been pressing for.
He also criticised the saffron camp for its "armchair" politics, and said those who lack the understanding about strengthening the organisation are calling the shots in the party.
"The Bengal BJP needs to come out of Facebook and AC-room politics. In Bengal, if you want to build an organisation, you have to hit the streets and mix with the masses. Issuing sermons won't work," he said at a press conference here.
Singh had recently slammed the state BJP leadership for not allowing him to work despite holding a senior position in the party.
Asked if he would resign as BJP MP, Singh said he would follow suit once two TMC MPs, who snapped all ties with the ruling party and are hobnobbing with the saffron camp, put in their papers, in an apparent reference to TMC lawmakers from Kanthi and Tamluk – Sisir Adhikari and Dibyendu Adhikari.
"There are two TMC MPs… who are yet to resign. Let them take that step, and I will resign within an hour," he asserted.
The TMC claims that Sisir, father of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, had joined the BJP ahead of the 2021 assembly polls, and had demanded that he should resign.
Dibyendu, the younger brother of Suvendu, has been maintaining a distance from the TMC since the last assembly polls.
Meanwhile, reacting to Singh's switchover, the West Bengal unit of the BJP said desertions of "opportunists" will not impact the party.
"The BJP is a party that is based on an ideology; desertions of people who love to stay close to power won't have any impact on the growth of the party," BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said.
BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said Singh's decision could have been prompted by the “vindictive action” of the TMC government to register several cases against him after he joined the saffron party.
"Being a businessman, it was getting difficult for him to survive without pledging loyalty to the TMC supremo," Ghosh, the former president of the state BJP unit, said.
The opposition Congress and the CPI(M) said the development proves that the TMC and the BJP are two sides of the same coin.
"Earlier, TMC leaders joined the BJP, which is now just the opposite. It goes to show that both the parties have no ideology, and are two sides of one coin," CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.
Speaking in a similar vein, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said the "TMC-BJP nexus" in Bengal now stands exposed.