Kolkata: In a big jolt to West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress ahead of the Bangaon Lok Sabha by-polls, minister Manjul Krishna Thakur Thursday quit and joined the BJP, calling Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee "unprincipled" and the party unfit for any "good and educated person".
Thakur, who held the refugee, relief and rehabilitation portfolio in the Banerjee cabinet, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with his son and panchayat functionary Subrata Thakur.
Announcing his resignation from the ministry and the party and formally joining the BJP in the presence of its state president Rahul Sinha, he and accused Banerjee of indulging in "unprincipled activities" and acting as per her whims.
The condition in the Trinamool is such now that no "good and educated person can remain in that party", he added.
"I was never allowed to work in my department. There was too much of factional feuds... I couldn't work for the Matua community.
"This party is bereft of any ideals. You know about Saradha (chit fund scam) and other issues... people ridicule us on the streets," said Thakur, who is the younger son of of Matua community leader Binapani Debi Thakurani (Baroma).
The Matua community, comprising primarily low caste Hindu refugees from Bangladesh who are members of the Matua Mahasangh, commands nearly a crore votes in various districts in southern Bengal and plays a crucial role in determining the electoral fortunes in at least 74 of the state's 294 assembly seats.
Manjul Thakur's elder brother Kapil Krishna, who won last year from the Bangaon Lok Sabha constituency, died recently, necessitating the by-polls salted to be held Feb 13.
There is much speculation that Subrata Thakur will be the BJP candidate from Bangaon. The Trinamool is likely to give the ticket to Kapil Krishna's widow Mamata, a bitter rival of Manjul and his son.
Sinha said the two Thakurs' joining has kickstarted the exodus from the Trinamool. "This is the first instance of a Trinamool minister joining the BJP by resigning from office. I had told you a few days back that a lot of Trinamool leaders, unable to work in the party with dignity, want to quit and join the BJP."
He claimed more Trinamool leaders would join the BJP this month.
"Twenty nine more Trinamool leaders want to join our fold. However, we will maintain a distance from those against whom there are allegations of cheating the poor people. We are happy there is not a single allegation of financial impropriety against Manjul," said Sinha.