Ex-BJP leader Yashwant Sinha joins TMC, says attack on Mamata Banerjee was 'tipping point'
Sinha, who served in the cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had quit the saffron party in 2018 after having serious differences with the party leadership
Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government, on Saturday joined Trinamool Congress days ahead of the high-octane West Bengal Assembly polls.
He joined the party in the presence of party leaders Derek O'Brien, Sudip Bandopadhyay, and Subrata Mukherjee.
Sinha, who served in the cabinet of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had quit the saffron party in 2018 after having serious differences with the party leadership. However, his son Jayant Sinha is the BJP MP from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.
"The country is passing through a strange situation. Our values and principles are in danger. The strength of democracy lies in the robustness of its institutions, and all the institutions have been weakened systematically," Sinha said.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician said the alleged attack on Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram on 10 March was the tipping point for his decision to join the ruling party in West Bengal.
"The tipping point was the attack (in Nandigram) on Mamata Banerjee. When I spoke to her today, she described the incident to me," he said. "This government can do anything to win the election. The attack on Mamata ji made me decide that I want to work with her," the 83-year old said.
On its part, the TMC hailed Sinha's decision of joining its ranks. "We welcome Yashwant Sinha to our party. His participation would strengthen our fight against the BJP in the elections," Lok Sabha MP Bandopadhyay said.
Additionally, TMC leader Mukherjee was quoted by reports as saying, "It is a proud moment for us that a leader like Yashwant Sinha is joining our party. Mamata, who was injured in Nandigram and is undergoing treatment, would have been present for the occasion. We will enrich the inclusion of Sinha because, other than Mamata, no other leader has the stature in our party like him."
Sinha's entry is being seen as a shot in the arm for the party, which has faced several resignations from veteran party members over the last few months. Former heavyweights like Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee joined the BJP, which has bolstered the saffron party's confidence in making gains in the upcoming Assembly polls.
"Sinha's entry into the party at this juncture helps Bengal's ruling regime hold up an example, at least symbolically, of these defections being a two-way street," an NDTV report noted.
The octagenarian leader had campaigned for TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Speaking after joining the TMC at its office in Kolkata, Sinha, launched a scathing attack against Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah, saying that "democracy is being threatened" under them.
"Strength of the democracy lies in the robustness of its institutions, and all the institutions have been weakened systematically," Sinha said.
“The country is going through a crucial phase. In a democracy, things that we used to give priority to are in crisis now. Important institutions are in crisis and this is a very serious threat to our democracy. Our farmers are sitting on the roads but nobody bothers. Even the judicial systems have become weak now,” he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
The ruling party has only one objective — to win elections by any means," he added.
The senior politician pledged support to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in her fight against the BJP.
"TMC will win the polls by thumping majority. But, we have to increase the victory to another level. (Gopal Krishna) Gokhale had famously said 'What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow'. Bengal should herald changes. The win of TMC in West Bengal Assembly polls will ring in changes in 2024 general elections and defeat them (Modi-Shah) led BJP," Sinha said.
Observing that the BJP, when led by Atal Behari Vajpayee, was vastly different from the saffron party as it stands today, Sinha said, "Atal ji believed in consensus. Now Modi and Shah believe in crushing opposite opinion. Atal ji believed in taking people along, but the present BJP regime believes in conquering people.
"Atal ji believed in coalition, now coalition partners are leaving BJP one after another," he added.
Sinha also criticised the Centre for the migrant exodus during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
He said "migrant labourers were forced to travel home on foot during the lockdown, while education, healthcare are also going through a rough phase but the government does not seem to be bothered".
The veteran politician also stated that the "serious fight" today is not merely to win elections but to "save the Republic".
Sinha recalled that during the Kandahar hijack of an Air India flight, the TMC was a coalition partner in the Vajpayee government.
He reminisced that Mamata had volunteered at the cabinet meeting to go and meet the hijackers to secure release of hostages, and said that "she is not afraid for her life."
Sinha's joining Trinamool Congress might not help it win votes, but his utterances against the BJP could lend weight to TMC's offensive against the saffron party in the high-voltage Bengal polls, PTI reported.
Sinha has been the Union finance minister twice: once in the Chandra Sekhar cabinet in 1990 and then again in the Vajpayee cabinet.
He also held the portfolio of the External Affairs ministry in the Vajpayee cabinet. He the served as the principal secretary to then-Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur in 1977.
Influenced by Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, Sinha, had resigned from the IAS in 1984 and plunged into politics.
With inputs from PTI
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