Ahead of Panchayat polls: Anubrata Mondal’s aide joins BJP amid buzz over TMC rejig
Biplab Ojha is seen as close to controversial TMC Birbhum unit president Anubrata Mondal, who is in judicial custody in a case related to alleged cattle smuggling
Kolkata: The vice-president of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Birbhum district unit, Biplab Ojha, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday amid reports that West Bengal’s ruling party will make organisational changes in some districts prior to the panchayat elections in early 2023.
The move is significant because Ojha is seen as close to controversial TMC Birbhum unit president Anubrata Mondal, who is in judicial custody in a case related to alleged cattle smuggling. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Mondal on August 11.
In August, TMC chairperson and chief minister Mamata Banerjee had made changes in the party hierarchy in several districts, and leaders have hinted that a fresh reshuffle is being planned by TMC national general secretary and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee to stop the BJP from capitalizing the ongoing agitation against his party leaders over irregularities in selection of applicants for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) housing scheme.
Ojha was welcomed into the BJP by leader of the opposition in the assembly Suvendu Adhikari at a rally in Nalhati on Tuesday afternoon.
While this is being seen as the BJP’s bid to strengthen base in Birbhum by taking advantage of Mondal’s long absence, Ojha alleged that he was sidelined by the TMC leadership a year ago. “I was not being given any responsibility. The party was not inviting me to any of its events. I decided to quit instead of sitting idle,” said Ojha, who was earlier chairman of the Nalhati municipality.
Five male members of the Muslim families affected by the March 21 massacre at Birbhum’s Bogtui village also joined the saffron camp at Adhikari’s rally.
Denying that Ojha was sidelined, Moloy Mukherjee, another district vice-president and one of Mondal’s lawyers, said: “The party gave him several posts and the opportunity to contest elections. We have nothing to say if he quits.”
There are many leaders like Ojha who are now under scanner in several districts, a state TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.
“In August, Mamata Banerjee made significant changes at the level of district chairpersons and presidents. Some of the new incumbents are known to be close to Abhishek, whose importance in the party is growing. He is planning more reshuffles prior to the panchayat polls,” the leader said. “Bankura, Purulia, Nadia, East Midnapore and a couple of districts in north Bengal region are likely to witness some purging. A section of our people in these districts are either sitting inactive or facing complaints of anti-party activity.”
The BJP recorded impressive results in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2021 assembly polls in Bankura and Nadia. East Midnapore is the home ground of Adhikari. His brother and father are TMC Lok Sabha members from the district and both have been seen at BJP events. The TMC has already moved Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking disqualification of Suvendu’s father, Sisir Adhikari, as MP.
Meanwhile, Anubrata Mondal was granted bail by a Birbhum court on Tuesday in an attempt to murder case filed by the district police last week. He was arrested on December 20 and remanded in police custody after a TMC worker, Shibthakur Mondal, lodged a complaint at Dubrajpur police station saying that Anubrata Mondal tried to strangle him in May last year. He alleged Anubrata Mondal suspected that he might join the BJP.
After the Dubrajpur court granted bail, Mondal was taken back to the Asansol correctional home in West Burdwan district, where he has been kept in remand in the cattle smuggling case.
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