Turncoats: An Open Season
Outlook|August 31, 2020
As Trinamool embarks on an aggressive rehabilitation and induction drive, BJP keeps looking for poaching opportunities
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

REHABILITATION of the disgraced is a gradual process, but it arrives with a bang. The Trinamool Congress’s July 28 ann­ announcement naming Kunal Ghosh as a state­level party spokesperson is one such. Not only is Ghosh, a journal­ ist­turned­media honcho­turned politician, a prime accused in the Saradha chit fund scam, he also tried to drag party chief Mamata Banerjee into the scam—one of Bengal’s biggest political scandals.

The TMC also inducted in the party expelled CPI(M) leader Ritabrata Banerjee and Chhatradhar Mahato, who once led the Maoist-backed Lalgarh movement during 2008-09, but it was Ghosh’s induction that struck political observers most. Speaking to journalists, some TMC leaders explained the layered message in Ghosh’s reinstatement (he was suspended for six years in 2013): if Mamata could take back Kunal Ghosh, no party deserter was untouchable.

Indeed, there were prior indications. Ghosh’s return to favour came barely a week after Mamata’s July 21 call to deserters and disgruntled leaders to return to the party. Soon after, Biplab Mitra, the TMC’s former Dakshin Dinajpur district unit president who had joined the BJP in June 2019, returned to the TMC. On August 6, former TMC minister Humayun Kabir, who fought the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket, also returned to TMC.

It has been a steady trickle since then: over the first half of August, Hema Chaubey returned to the TMC from the Congress in West Midnapore, TMC’s former district vice president Bishnu Mahato returned from the BJP in Purulia, former Congress assembly poll candidate in Bankura Arun Pathak joined up and so did social worker Chandra Sekhar Kundu in Asansol, West Burdwan. At the panchayat and booth level, it was a veritable backslide: dozens of workers and grassroots-level leaders joined the TMC from the BJP, the Congress, and the Left.

“People are joining or returning to our party inspired by Mamata Banerjee’s development-centric politics and inclusive political approach,” says TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee.

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