A ‘Diwali meeting’ between veteran CPI(M) leader Ashok Bhattacharya and BJP MP Raju Bista has led to a political slugfest in West Bengal.
The ruling Trinamool Congress has claimed that the meeting was part of a “greater design to destabilise” the region and the state government.
Mr Bhattacharya, however, termed the claims “baseless” and said he remains committed to his party.
“This whole theory is absolutely baseless. If the elected MP comes to my residence to wish me for Diwali, should I ask him to leave? He came along with a bunch of journalists. It was also the death anniversary of my wife and everyone was invited,” said Mr Bhattacharya.
BJP’s Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, along with Siliguri MLA Shankar Ghosh, had on Monday visited Ashok Bhattacharya at his residence.
The TMC, in its mouthpiece ‘Jago Bangla’, inferred that the meeting was set up for an arrangement to “destabilize the state government by December”.
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh later said, “This is not just a courtesy meeting but part of a greater design to destabilise north Bengal. The BJP, since its defeat in the last assembly polls, had been trying to divide the state by either fanning the demand for a union territory or a separate state.”
Mr Bista, in a series of tweets, refuted TMC’s claim and speculations over his meeting with the former Siliguri mayor, and said it was just a “courtesy visit”.
“Under TMC common courtesy and basic decency has become so rare in our state, that TMC operatives are raising questions on my meeting with the former State Minister, Siliguri MLA and SMC Mayor Sh Ashok Bhattacharya ji yesterday, whom I had called on to share Diwali greetings,” Mr Bista said.
“The desperation of TMC in labelling our meeting as a ‘set up for a new arrangement’ in their mouthpiece exhibits the sense of fear and insecurity they must feel. TMC operatives seem to have forgotten that respecting our elders and seeking their blessings during festival is embedded in the very fabric of our society and culture,” he added.
Under TMC common courtesy and basic decency has become so rare in our state, that TMC operatives are raising questions on my meeting with the former WB State Minister, Siliguri MLA and SMC Mayor Sh. Ashok Bhattacharya ji yesterday, whom I had called on to share Diwali greetings.
— Raju Bista (@RajuBistaBJP)
Mr Bhattacarya is considered one of the most influential politicians in North Bengal – which has become a battleground for the TMC and the BJP. While the BJP has made massive inroads in the region, the TMC is trying to win back the votes with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee making multiple visits to the area.
Ashok Bhattacharya is also considered very close to cricketer Sourav Ganguly who was denied a second term as BCCI Chief reportedly after he turned down an offer to join the BJP.
West Bengal has seen many Left cadres join the BJP in the past and the political phenomenon is described as ‘Baam thekey Ram’ in Bengali – ‘from the Left to Lord Ram’. In the last election, the BJP emerged as the only significant Opposition party in Bengal with both the Left and the Congress being reduced to zero seats in the assembly.