KOLKATA: A sitting CPM MLA and a 70-year-old former legislator living in a mud-hut, both elected from Dhupguri assembly constituency in north Bengal, turned down election strategist Prashant Kishor’s offer to join the ruling Trinamool Congress saying "all communists cannot be purchased’’.
The Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), the team of Kishor, which was hired by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s party after its debacle in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, visited the houses of sitting MLA Mamata Roy and Lakshmi Kanta Roy, who served for consecutive two terms from the constituency in Jalpaiguri district and offered them a red-carpet welcome to the TMC.
The TMC’s attempt to bring the septuagenarian CPM leader in its fold is said to be a move to regain the party ground in north Bengal riding the clean and honest image of Roy in the region. The BJP had a sweeping victory in the 2019 general elections by bagging seven Lok Sabha seats out of eight in north Bengal. The saffron camp secured victory in 18 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal.
"For the past few days, I was receiving calls from several persons who claimed to be representatives of Prashant Kishor’s team. I told them that now I am not involved in the party’s activities because of my age but they kept insisting that they wanted to visit my house. On last Tuesday, two representatives came to my house. I offered them chairs on the courtyard," said Roy, who showed his net asset worth Rs 4.6 lakh in his affidavit to the election commission of India in 2006 Assembly elections.
After exchanging a few words, the two men asked Roy to take them inside the house with a mud wall and tile roof. "I told them what secret talk they wanted to have with a communist like me. Looking at the condition of my house, the duo was surprised. They requested me to join the TMC promising a key position in the ruling party’s district-level functionaries. I had a simple reply for them. I told them I retired from my party’s regular activities because of my age issue but not from the party’s ideology. I made it clear that many of our party workers might have shifted sides but all communists cannot be purchased," he said.
The men also visited sitting MLA Mamata Roy’s residence and contacted another former MLA from the same assembly segment Banamali Roy with a similar offer. While Mamata refused to accept the offer and asked the I-PAC representatives not to come again, Banamali did not allow them to visit his house.
Insiders in the ruling party said the poaching attempt was initiated to regain grounds in its erstwhile citadel. "Corruption among our local leaders was the key reason behind the jolt that we received in north Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections. We are hunting for faces who are known for their honesty and clean image. Such figures in our party will help us to take the electorates into confidence and approaching personalities like Roy and two others were part of our strategy," said a senior TMC leader.