West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee lost an influential legislator to the BJP today. Arjun Singh, lawmaker from Bhatpara Assembly seat, switched sides in New Delhi this afternoon. Minutes after joining BJP, Arjun Singh took potshots at Mamata Banerjee and said, “The Ma Mati Manush party has become all about MMM — money money money.”
Arjun Singh wanted the ticket to the Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat and made no secret of his aspiration. He is on record alleging that the people of Barrackpore were not happy with sitting lawmaker Dinesh Trivedi. But Mr Trivedi has been renominated.
Arjun Singh did not hide his disappointment. Last night he flew to Delhi and showed up at the BJP headquarter today. The BJP had announced a major joining from Trinamool and Arjun Singh did nothing to stem the speculation.
Speaking to reporters after switching sides, Arjun Singh said that he was disillusioned after Mamata Banerjee questioned India’s air strike on Balakot and sought proof that indeed terrorists had been killed. His statement was uncannily similar to that of Tom Vaddakan, the Congress heavyweight who joined the BJP today as well.
On Wednesday, Mamata Banerjee, who was aware of Arjun Singh’s disaffection, had said, “There are some greedy people who want tickets that I am unable to give. They may change sides. I say good riddance. They will understand what Trinamool is only after they have left.” He was present at her home-office complex yesterday but was clearly unhappy.
On Tuesday, she had called Arjun Singh into the media centre while announcing the Trinamool candidates. He had reluctantly come in, stood sulking for a while and had then slunk out. On Monday, Mamata Banerjee had met both Dinesh Trivedi and Arjun Singh jointly. Singh was reportedly offered a ministerial berth but that was clearly not good enough.
Arjun Singh is the third prominent Trinamool leader to join the BJP in the last few weeks, after Bishnupur lawmaker Soumitra Khan and Bolpur lawmaker Anupam Hazra, both of whom were simultaneously expelled.
Why is Arjun Singh important? He is a four-term lawmaker from Bhatpara, with a hold in several other Assembly segments in the Barrackpore parliamentary seat and influence in North 24 Parganas district. He is also chairman of the Bhatpara municipality with loyal councillors.
His equation with Dinesh Trivedi has been rocky for sometime. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Mr Trivedi won Barrackpore but lost in the Bhatpara assembly segment. In 2016 Assembly elections, Arjun Singh romped home as legislator with a handsome margin.
Reputed to be a strongman, not shy of using muscle power, Arjun Singh is also close to BJP leader Mukul Roy, who was once Mamata Banerjee’s right hand man.
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