Blowing hot and cold for several weeks after being dropped from the Modi government, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Babul Supriyo sprang a surprise on Saturday when he joined West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress and asserted he will work for the development of the state.
Supriyo, a two-term MP from Asansol, had earlier declared he will quit politics, before being persuaded by the BJP leadership to continue as a Lok Sabha member.
The singer-turned-politician joined the TMC in the presence of party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee and Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Derek O'Brien.
'Today, in the presence of National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee and RS MP Derek O'Brien, former Union Minister and sitting MP Babul Supriyo joined the Trinamool family. We take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to him!,' the TMC tweeted.
Unlike many in a regimented party like the BJP, Supriyo had openly voiced his displeasure over being dropped from the Union government during its long-awaited reshuffle in July which incidentally came in the wake of his defeat in Tollygunge in the March-April West Bengal assembly polls.
Speculation is now rife about the possibility of Supriyo being fielded for the Rajya Sabha seat recently vacated by TMC member Arpita Ghosh, who said she had resigned as she wanted to work for the party organisation.
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.
"When I had said two months back that I want to quit politics, I was serious about it. This new development took place in the last three-four days. So, after I got this opportunity, I decided to change my mind," he told reporters with O'Brien seated beside him.
"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.
Days after being dropped from the ministry, Supriyo had said the development had some role in his decision to quit politics but made it clear he was not joining any other party.
'Have listened to what my father, wife, daughter and a few close friends had to say. After listening to everything, I am saying that I am not going to any other party. I am confirming that I am not joining the Congress, not the CPM.
'Neither they have called me, nor I am going. I am a one-team player. Have always supported Mohun Bagan.. have done only party BJP West Bengal.. That's it!' the former minister wrote in a social media post.
Reacting to Supriyo joining the TMC, BJP state spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said his decision to jump ship proves he is an 'opportunist'.
"It only proves that he was with the party only for the post of a central minister. As he was dropped from the ministry, he switched camps. But let me make this clear that in 2024 a BJP candidate will win the Asansol Lok Sabha seat," he said.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said the development proves both the TMC and the BJP follow the politics of poaching leaders of other parties.
Welcoming Supriyo into the party, state TMC general secretary Kunal Ghosh said the development proves that the BJP is a sinking ship in Bengal.
"It proves BJP is a sinking ship in Bengal. Supriyo was not happy with the party's functioning and decided to quit the saffron camp," he said.
With Saturday's development, Supriyo has joined a virtual parade of BJP leaders and lawmakers to the TMC since the saffron party's defeat in the assembly polls. Before him, four MLAs, including BJP vice president Mukul Roy, had joined the TMC.
Security scaled down
Meanwhile, soon after Supriyo joined the TMC, the Union government scaled down the armed security cover of central paramilitary commandos given to him, official sources said.
The cover has been reduced from the second-highest level of Z category to Y category, after an order was issued by the Union home ministry on Friday.
The security cover given to VVIPs and high-risk personalities under the central scheme, ranges from the highest Z+ followed by Z, Y+, Y and X categories.
On the scaling down of Supriyo's security category, the sources said that a recommendation in this context was made by central security and intelligence agencies.
Supriyo was being guarded by an armed contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
From about six-seven commandos, Supriyo will now be guarded by two armed personnel during travel.
The sources indicated a further review of his cover cannot be ruled out, and the job of his security can be entirely entrusted to the West Bengal Police as he has now joined the TMC.