Editorial: Return of the prodigal son

That aya rams risk becoming gaya rams could be read either as a tautology or as an iron law of Indian politics.
Editorial: Return of the prodigal son


But either way, the developments in West Bengal expose the Bharatiya Janata Party’s amoral approach of welcoming, and then suitably rewarding, any Trinamool Congress defector with open arms. This is, of course, not the only State where the BJP has adopted such an approach. But nowhere has the door been left open as widely in the run-up to the West Bengal elections.
In this period, there was a veritable wave of defections to the BJP, led by prominent TMC leaders. They included people such as Suvendu Adhikari, a minister in Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet and the man who spearheaded the Nandigram agitation. Self-congratulatory functions were held as other TMC members – which included a number that failed to get tickets – switched camps. By the time the elections came around, there were more than 30 TMC defectors who found a place on the BJP’s list of candidates. Now, a fair number of them, who witnessed the TMC register a stunning electoral victory, want to return. Some of them already have, of which Mukul Roy is the most prominent. Unlike the others, Roy was not a recent defector. He fell out with Banerjee before the 2016 Assembly election and formally moved to the BJP the following year. But his return to the TMC is a victory of sorts for the Chief Minister, who has turned from playing a victim of defection to a forgiving leader, willing to overlook past misdemeanours. In Roy’s case, the fact that he was very restrained when criticising the TMC or its leader, facilitated his return.
The compulsions for Roy’s return were partly political – he resented the larger than life role handed over to Suvendu Adhikari, the other big TMC defector. It is also no secret that he didn’t get along well with the BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh, who seems relieved by his departure. But Roy’s suggestion that many more deserters will find their way back to the TMC is a possibility that cannot be ruled out.
It is partly to the ‘credit’ of the BJP’s formidable propaganda machine that so many people abandoned the TMC in its favour. It managed to create a powerful perception that it would win the elections, which helped to create the wave. While the lust for power and the power of inducements played a role, Banerjee should shoulder a share of the blame for the desertions. In some cases at least, the movement to the BJP was helped along by her abrasive leadership style. But no one can take away from what the plucky and impassioned politician has achieved in recent months.
Banerjee notched up a comprehensive electoral victory that surprised pundits, befuddled political commentators and shocked the BJP. And now, she has created a climate that has altered the journey of her party – from a place of departure to a point of destination. While it’s a moment of triumph for TMC to see the return of prodigal son Roy to the fold of a party he has been an integral part of, the leadership must be cautious not to allow political opportunism erode the democratic space of the election process.

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