BJP Launches Bengal Offensive By Luring Trinamool Lawmaker Saumitra Khan

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Saumitra Khan said he joined the BJP because there is "no democracy" in the Trinamool Congress.

Kolkata:

The BJP was supposed to kick off its Bengal offensive with rath yatras in December but instead launched it by snatching away a sitting Lok Sabha lawmaker of the Trinamool Congress today.

Welcoming 38-year-old Saumitra Khan to the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, BJP leader and Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, "In the 2019 elections, Narendra Modi's strongest fortress will be the east. This is one of many small steps in that direction."

"I fully support Narendra Modi's Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. There is no democracy in Trinamool. I condemn that and am joining BJP," Mr Khan told reporters.

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One door opened but another slammed shut for the politician. Trinamool summarily kicked him out, with secretary general Partha Chatterjee advising MP Sudip Bandopadhyay to inform parliament.

Mr Khan had been the Trinamool MP from Bishnupur in Bengal's Bankura district since 2014. Earlier, he was a Congress MLA from the same district and a loyalist of Mukul Roy, a Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP who joined the BJP in November 2017 and is now in charge of elections in West Bengal.

Mr Roy was present when Mr Khan formally joined the BJP after a brief meeting with party chief Amit Shah, who has set the Bengal BJP a target for 2019 — at least 22 out of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats.

Mr Khan jumped ship, say sources, primarily because of poor equations with Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamool MP, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Trinamool observer for Bankura. Sources say Mr Khan is not the only leader upset with Banerjee and the members of the Yuva Trinamool that he heads.

Mr Khan reportedly suspected he would not get a ticket for 2019. He was also embroiled in a factional fight with Trinamool MLA Shyamal Santra in Bankura. Mr Santra is also a former Congressman.

Last evening, Mr Khan went live on Facebook and attacked a Bankura Sub-Divisional Police Officer or SDPO, accusing him of eyeing a Trinamool ticket in the coming polls. He accused the SDPO of arresting his personal security guard on frivolous grounds.

"They want to file a false case against me," Mr Khan said on Facebook Live

Mr Khan's exit should worry Trinamool. A "young turk", he has a following among the youth who, sources believe, could shift loyalties to the BJP. Another worry is that Mr Khan is the first of Mukul Roy's "men" to quit Trinamool. Mukul Roy has several loyalists, and sources claim they are biding their time.

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