The Naxalbari tribal couple that hosted lunch for Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah last week on Wednesday joined the Trinamool Congress, a development the saffron party called “a textbook case of revenge politics”.
The BJP alleged the couple was “forced” to join Trinamool Congress, a charge rejected by the duo -- Raju Mahali and Geeta Mahali -- who had hosted lunch for Amit Shah on April 25 during his visit to the area.
“I was inspired by the developmental work of Mamata Banerjee and that is why we have joined the TMC. Nobody has forced us to join the party,” Geeta Mahali said after joining West Bengal’s ruling party in the presence of tourism minister Gautam Deb.
As a stung BJP accused the TMC of “kidnapping” the couple and forcing them to join the party, Deb said the life and struggles of Banerjee inspired them to shift loyalty.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “We had reports that they were being threatened by TMC goons. They had been missing for the last two days. We also filed an FIR after they went missing. They were kidnapped by the TMC and forced to join the party. We condemn such act.”
In New Delhi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the development indicated that the “success” of Shah’s visit had unnerved the TMC.
Prasad alleged the BJP workers and others whom Shah met during his visit to Bhawanipur, Banerjee’s assembly constituency, during his three-day West Bengal tour, were also under “pressure”.
The BJP was “deeply sad and hurt” over the development but not in the least concerned, Prasad said, adding it was a “textbook case of revenge politics”.
Such tactics by the TMC cannot stop the BJP’s expansion, he said.
The minister referred to Banerjee’s own struggles during the Left rule to claim she cannot stop the “march of democracy”. He asserted people will support BJP despite TMC’s “pressure and violence”.
Addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters, he wondered if the TMC’s “desperation” was caused by the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Saradha chit fund case and the Narada bribery sting allegedly involving several of its leaders, including MPs.
“The investigation will not stop. It is based on evidence which is in the public domain. Bengal is seeing reckless violence and overpowering fear of the TMC,” he said, adding Banerjee’s party could not tolerate a tribal couple offering lunch to the BJP president.
Violence and fear prevailed in the state during the Left rule and it is a tragedy that it remains so under the TMC, he alleged.
Prasad also accused the Mamata Banerjee government of appeasing one section of society, an obvious reference to Muslims, by “misusing” power to stop religious processions during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti.
During his north Bengal trip, Shah had lunch while seated on the floor of Raju Mahali’s modest house at Dakkhin Katiajote village in Naxalbari, the place of origin of Left wing extremism in the country.