Date gone wrong: Tribal couple which gave lunch to Amit Shah last week joins TMC
Two days after BJP president Amit Shah had lunch at a tribal couple's house in Naxalbari, the couple on Wednesday (3 May) joined the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC).
In what must be considered a silent victory for the ruling party, the couple, Raju and Gita Mahali, said they were joining the party for 'more development of the state', in the presence of Goutam Deb, the state minister in charge of the North Bengal Development Department.
Shah had gone to Naxalbari as a part of the BJP's 'booth chalo abhiyan', and had taken an unscheduled stop at the couple's house for lunch, consisting of rice, dal, fried parwal (pointed gourd), and roti.
This triggered a spat between the AITC and the BJP.
The saffron party claimed the Trinamool had 'kidnapped' the couple from Hatigacha village in Naxalbari, and demanded a statement from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Rahul Sinha, BJP national secretary, said: “We demand a statement from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, as this couple had been abducted last night. We wanted to lodge an FIR in the Naxalbari police station, but the police did not want to take our FIR. We gheraoed the police station the whole night, and later, in the morning, we found that the couple had joined AITC. This is unfortunate, as the couple did not have any political leanings. They are a tribal family. But the more they (AITC) flex their money and muscle power to bring people into their party, the BJP will rise more and more in the state.”
The AITC, on the other hand, said it was quite legal and had constitutional sanction – anyone could join any party.
Minister Deb said: “It’s the constitutional right of a person to join any political party. More people will join AITC, as we believe in development, unlike the false promises made by the BJP.”
A team from the state BJP met Governor Kesharinath Tripathi on Wednesday evening, and narrated the incident. The team urged the Governor to intervene and take appropriate steps. BJP leaders also complained to the Scheduled Tribes Commission, and urged it to provide proper protection to the family.
Sinha said: “We will make sure that more AITC workers join the BJP. Our campaign against the Trinamool Congress will continue.”
'Our own interest'
The Mahalis themselves deny they were 'abducted' by AITC workers.
Raju, 28, a daily wage labourer told Catch over the phone: “We have not been influenced by anyone to join the AITC. We joined the party out of our own interest. We feel that Didi can make a change in West Bengal.”
Raju's wife Gita is a tea garden worker in Naxalbari, and earns a meagre salary of Rs 50 per day.
Political analysts, however, are of the opinion that this is part of the tit-for-tat tactics the AITC and the BJP have recently employed against each other.
Imankalyan Lahiri, a professor at Jadavpur University, said: “Ahead of the municipal elections, both the parties will try to grab more people. This will lead to more clashes between the BJP and the AITC. As a result of such clashes, eventually, common people will be affected.”