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After lunch & selfies with Shah, Bengal couple joins TMC

After lunch & selfies with Shah, Bengal couple joins TMC
BJP's lunch diplomacy in Bengal could be turning sour with the Mahali family that had hosted BJP national president Amit Shah to lunch a few days ago in Naxalbari, joining the Trinamool Congress. TMC leader Gautam Deb was found sipping tea in the same house on Wednesday, merely 8 days after Amit Shah had left, a contented man. The BJP was quick to allege that the Mahali couple had joined the TMC under duress.

The saffron brigade in an attempt to gain a political foothold in Bengal has left no stone unturned. On April 25, Shah along with the BJP front rung leaders of Bengal had flagged off the organisational "Booth Chalo" programme by having lunch in the house of a scheduled tribe couple in a remote village in Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district.

Flanked by Dilip Ghosh, Bengal BJP President, Shah had sat cross-legged on the floor enjoying a meal of rice, roti, daal and sabzi. Talking to media persons after lunch, Shah had declared: "It is from here that the Naxals spread the politics of violence and hatred throughout the country. From the same place, we will launch our Saab Ka Saath, Saab Ka Vikas."

Exactly 8 days after this, the Mahali couple is once more in the news. At around 10 am Raju and Gita Mahali received the TMC party flag from Deb at the Naxalbari block office.

BJP State President Ghosh alleged that the couple had been missing since Tuesday. "They had been abducted and under force compelled to join the TMC. Their body language says it all. They are in fear. They were seen sitting with heads hung low not being able to look up also" declared Ghosh.

In New Delhi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the development indicated that the "success" of Shah's visit had unnerved the TMC.

Prasad alleged the BJP workers and others whom Shah met during his visit to Bhawanipur, Banerjee's assembly constituency, during his three-day West Bengal tour, were also under "pressure".
The BJP was "deeply sad and hurt" over the development but not in the least concerned, Prasad said, adding it was a "textbook case of revenge politics".

Such tactics by the TMC cannot stop the BJP's expansion, he said.

A triumphant Deb brushed aside Ghosh's statement as "baseless allegations." "They adhere to Mamata Banerjee and the party's development activities and have decided to walk on that path. No question of force arises. They joined of their own will."

Towing the same line, Gita Mahali told media persons that the couple joined on their will and not under duress.

"I was inspired by the developmental work of Mamata Banerjee and that is why we have joined the TMC. Nobody has forced us to join the party," she said.
While Raju is a daily labourer doing odd jobs, Gita is a worker in a tea garden.
Amitava Banerjee

Amitava Banerjee

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