In a bizarre turn of events, a Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader, who had received a ticket for the upcoming West Bengal Assembly polls last week, joined the BJP on Monday.
Prior to this development, sensing her plans, the TMC on Monday morning hurriedly withdrew her candidature, citing her ill health as the reason for change.
All India Trinamool Congress would like to inform that the candidate for Malda District’s Habibpur Assembly Constituency...Posted by All India Trinamool Congress on Sunday, 7 March 2021
Sarala Murmu was named the party's candidate from Habibpur seat in Malda district of north Bengal last week. TMC insiders said that Murmu did not want to contest from Habibpur, as she thought it was a sure seat of the BJP. She had bargained for a more favourable seat, Old Malda, but the party did not agree.
Apart from Murmu, four-time Trinamool MLAs Sonali Guha (Satgachhia) and Rabindranath Bhattacharya (Singur), five-time MLA Jatu Lahiri, former India football captain and one time MLA Dipendu Biswas (Basirhat Dakshin) also joined the saffron camp in presence of Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, and BJP leaders Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy on Monday afternoon.
Murmu's husband, too, is a TMC leader and is known to be close to Suvendu Adhikari, the former TMC heavyweight who joined the BJP in December.
On Sunday night, news spread that Murmu had left for Kolkata. The party found this suspicious and named Pradip Baskey as the new candidate of the party from the constituency.
In Malda, one of Bengal's three Muslim-majority districts, Habibpur is an Assembly constituency reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. The BJP performed exceptionally well in Habibpur in the 2018 panchayat elections, following which Habibpur's sitting CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu joined and BJP and won the Malda North Lok sabha seat on a BJP ticket. In the ensuing by-elections, the BJP's Joel Murmu won by a handsome margin.
A senior TMC leader from Malda district who did not want to be named said that Sarala Murmu thought she stood no chance of winning against the BJP's sitting MLA, who is expected to get a renomination.
Sarala Murmu could not be contacted till Monday despite repeated attempts but senior BJP leaders said she was in Kolkata and in touch with the party's leaders.
A person who has been named a candidate in an Assembly election has never switched camp in the state before, political observers said.