By Milinda Ghosh Roy
Kolkata, May 25 (IANS) BJP candidate Saumitra Khan, who emerged victorious from West Bengal’s Bishnupur Lok sabha seat in spite of not being able to campaign in most parts of his constituency following a court order, said the “false cases” lodged against him by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government failed to stop him as he rode on people’s blessings and a potent Modi wave across Bengal.
Speaking to IANS, the Trinamool Congress-turned-BJP leader, who defeated his Trinamool rival Shyamal Santra by more than 78,000 votes, said the ruling party’s downfall in the Lok sabha polls was a result of common people’s “protest and outrage against its misrule” in West Bengal.
After Khan joined the BJP, he was named in a number of cases related to taking money from people on the pretext of securing government jobs for them, and for being involved in illegal sand mining.
The Calcutta High Court then barred him from entering the Bankura district, under which falls six of the seven Assembly segments of his parliamentary constituency, for ensuring free and fair polls, keeping in mind his political clout in the area. Khan thus could personally campaign only in the Khandaghosh Assembly segment, which comes under East Burdwan district.
“Immediately after I left Trinamool Congress and joined the BJP (in January), false cases were filed against me. They (state administration) tried to prove in the court that there can be law and order issues if I enter the constituency as I am an influential person. Eventually, I was barred by the court from entering Bankura. So my wife Sujata campaigned for me,” he said.
“I am the son of the soil in Bishnupur. I am born and brought up here. So people know me very well. They understood that a genuine person was being falsely accused and heckled. They did not like it. They supported me because they knew that the relationship between Bankura district and me was that of a mother and a son.
“Trinamool thought that they would be able to win over the people of Bishnupur by bringing someone from outside. But the locals here love me like their son. They blessed me wholeheartedly,” said Khan, who won from Binshnupur in 2014 on a Trinamool ticket after switching allegiance from the Congress.
“The 2019 elections were in favour of Modiji’s mantra ‘Sab ka sath, sab ka vikas’ (development for all). Looking at the progress of the country under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the people of Bengal also want the BJP to come to power here,” he noted.
Soon after defecting from Trinamool Congress, three separate criminal cases were filed against Khan on charges of cheating, illegal sand lifting and keeping unlicensed weapon in three different police stations in Bankura.
The Calcutta High Court granted him interim bail but directed him not to enter the Bankura district. The Supreme Court refused to vacate the order.
But Khan was still confident as people’s support was on his side from the first day.
“Initially I felt a little helpless. But looking at the people’s overwhelming support and adequate backing by the BJP leaders, I felt increasingly confident about winning,” he said.
Terming the Trinamool Congress as a “dynastic party”, Khan accused it of unleashing terror on the people of the state. He also took indirect potshots at Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and perceived heir Abhishek Banerjee, saying there was massive discontent within the party centreing around its future leadership.
He also claimed that many Trinamool MLAs, between 50 and 60 by his estimation, were ready to desert the party and join the BJP following the 2019 poll results.
“Trinamool Congress was formed to oust the Left parties from power in Bengal. But later it turned into a dynastic party. Neither the leaders, nor the activists could accept that.
“There is massive discontent within the party. Even yesterday, five-six local MLAs told me that they are ready to leave the party and join the BJP. At least 50 to 60 MLAs are ready to join Modiji’s brigade from various parts of the state. Apart from the senior leaders, thousands of Trinamool activists will also join us,” he added.
Khan’s wife Sujata, who campaigned for her husband for 18-20 hours daily for close to one-and-a-half month, said the public support was overwhelming.
“I do not have a political background. So when I first started campaigning, I was worried thinking whether I would be able to win the hearts of 15-20 lakh voters of Bishnupur. But the kind response I got from the women and young generation from the very first day, I was confident that we would win the seat,” she told IANS.