In an embarrassment for the West Bengal BJP, Trinamool Congress MP Sunil Mondal, who had switched over to the saffron camp last December, on 2nd August said he is still a member of the TMC and will continue to remain a party member.
TMC, which has made representations with Speaker Om Birla to disqualify him under the anti-defection law, said that Mr. Mondal is “on probation” before his re-induction into the party and was asked to prove his political convictions by taking part in anti-BJP programmes.
The BJP claimed that the prospects of the party will not be affected if some “seasonal birds” leave it.
“There was some misunderstanding with the party. But I never officially joined the BJP. It was a mistake on my part, and some misunderstandings did take place. But neither had I officially resigned from the TMC, nor did the party expel me. I am still a member of the TMC and will continue to be one till the last day,” Mr. Mondal told PTI over the phone.
When pointed out that he, along with senior TMC leader Suvendu Adhikari, had joined the BJP in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 19 last year in Medinipur, Mr. Mondal said he was present on the dais, but he never took the flag.
“I went there with Suvendu Adhikari, but you cannot show any picture where I am seen standing with a BJP flag,” he said.
Asked how he would justify his statements against the TMC during the Assembly polls campaign, Mr. Mondal said it was a misunderstanding and was unwilling to talk about the past.
When asked whether his change of political posturing is prompted by the fact that the party has moved for disqualification of his Lok Sabha membership under the anti-defection law, he said, “I never left the party”.
He also took part in the TMC’s protest programme against the recent Pegasus snooping scandal.
Mr. Mondal recently said he was not “feeling comfortable” in his new party as promises made to him were not kept, triggering speculations over his future political move.
Reacting to the development, senior TMC leader Sougata Ray, who was involved in negotiations with Mr. Mondal last year when he decided to quit the party, said, “He is presently on probation”.
“We have moved to Lok Sabha Speaker seeking Sunil Mondal and Sisir Adhikari’s disqualification as they had joined the BJP. Now Sunil wants to rejoin the party, so we have kept him on probation and keep a watch on his political activities and his willingness to fight against the BJP. Then we would take a call,” he said.
According to TMC sources, the party had initially decided not to take back the turncoats who had ditched the party just ahead of the polls but decided to look into Mr. Mondal’s case after he dropped in twice at party leader Mukul Roy’s residence in New Delhi last week during Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Delhi visit.
“He pleaded before the leadership to forgive him and take him back into the party fold. So the party may be having second thoughts about him,” a senior TMC leader said.
With these comments, Mr. Mondal joined a long list of TMC leaders who switched over to the BJP ahead of the Assembly elections held earlier this year and started putting out feelers to their former party after the poll results were declared.
The BJP’s national vice-president Mukul Roy went back to the TMC in June.
The TMC had recently sough disqualification in the Lok Sabha of Sisir Adhikari and Sunil Mondal, both elected MPs on TMC ticket but joined the BJP just ahead of the Assembly polls.
The development came just days after BJP leader and former Union Minister Babul Supriyo announced his decision to quit politics and resign as party MP. He hinted that the decision was partly due to losing the ministerial berth during the Cabinet reshuffle and differences with the State BJP leadership.
BJP State vice-president Jaiprakash Majumdar said a few “seasonal birds” had joined the party just ahead of the polls.
“Now, as we did not come to power, they are busy deserting the ship. It will not impact the party’s prospects in Bengal,” he said.