Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi set tongues wagging yesterday after he resigned from the Rajya Sabha – claiming disillusionment – and refused to rule out a switch to rivals BJP; “if I join BJP nothing wrong in it,” he said, triggering speculation that he is, in fact, set to join a long list of high-profile names from Bengal’s ruling party to cross the aisle in the build up to Assembly elections.
On Saturday Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee responded to his potential departure with a pithy remark: “Trivedi was saying he was feeling suffocated… let him go and get admitted to BJP’s ICU.”
Mr Banerjee, who is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, and whose position and influence within the party upset some of those who have quit, including former Nandigram MLA Suvendu Adhikari, also rubbished talk Mamata Banerjee would struggle to be re-elected.
“West Bengal will elect Mamata Banerjee as Chief Minister for a third time and the Trinamool will stay in power for 50 years,” he told voters in South 24 Paraganas district, as he predicted the party would win 250+ of the 294 seats and that the BJP would struggle to cross double digits.
Mr Banerjee’s (some might say optimistic) prediction was a direct response to Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that the BJP will win 200+ seats. Mr Shah made that claim in November last year, and reminded doubters that he had made (and secured) similarly ambitious claims in the 2019 election.
Mr Banerjee also took on the BJP over the controversial “Jai Shri Ram” slogan that, he said, was used by the opposition because it had no development agenda.
He pointed to the incident at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial last month, in which Ms Banerjee was met with “Jai Shri Ram” chants at an event to honour Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on his 124th birth anniversary.
Mr Banerjee also attacked the BJP as a “bunch of outsiders” who are unaware of the state’s culture and are spreading fake news to confuse voters.
He also refuted claims by the centre – repeated in parliament today by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman – that Bengal farmers had been deprived of financial aid from the central government.
“BJP should first think of Gujarat, UP and other states. No need to worry about Bengal. Outsiders will not rule Bengal,” Mr Banerjee said.
With input from PTI