Kolkata: Sovan Chatterjee, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader who joined BJP recently, said on Tuesday that he is ready to contest against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the 2021 assembly polls if the saffron party wanted it.
Chatterjee, who was once a trusted lieutenant of the TMC supremo, mocked her and the party's leadership for appointing poll strategist Prashant Kishor to revive its prospects in the next assembly polls.
He also dismissed allegations that he had switched over to the saffron camp to avoid CBI interrogations into the Narada tape scam.
He had in the past been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI in connection with the Narada scam.
"When I was in TMC, I was a loyal soldier of that party. Now I have joined the BJP and will be its loyal soldier. I will do whatever my party asks me to do. If they ask me to contest against Mamata Banerjee in next election I will do so," he said at his first press conference at the state BJP headquarters.
Banerjee represents Bhawanipur Assembly constituency and Chatterjee the Behala Purba seat in the city.
Chatterjee said even during his days in the TMC he had raised his voice in the party over the way the panchayat polls were conducted in the state in 2018.
"There had been allegations of rampant violence and malpractices," he said.
Asked by scribes whether he had switched over to BJP to avoid being interrogated in the Narada tape scam, Chatterjee said "All of you should remember that it (the scam) is subjudice. And there is huge difference between being accused and proven guilty. Nothing has been proved as of now".
Mocking TMC for appointing Kishor, he said "As a mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation I used to appoint contractors for various jobs. Now TMC is doing the same thing - appointing a contractor (Kishore) to revive its poll prospects. But the contractor will not be able to save the sinking ship of TMC," he said.
Following reverses in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, the TMC has hired Prashant Kishor headed I-PAC to shore up its popularity in the state ahead of the assembly election in 2021.
Reacting to the ridicule, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said Sovan Chatterjee has forgotten the contributions of Mamata Banerjee in shaping his political career.
"He (Sovan Chatterjee) had never said anything in the party forum about the panchayat polls. He has gone to BJP and is giving lame excuses," he said.
Banerjee is known to have played a key role in shaping Sovan Chatterjee's political career, which like her had begun in the Youth Congress and he had reached the top echelons of the TMC.
After TMC's stupendous victory in the 2016 assembly polls, Chatterjee, who was then the Kolkata mayor, was rewarded the most by the TMC supremo and given the charge of three crucial departments.
Chatterjee and his close aide Baisakhi Banerjee were felicitated by West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh at a function here on Tuesday.
Banerjee was the president of the Trinamool Congress Professors cell who had joined the saffron party along with him on August 14 in New Delhi.
Chatterjee is a four-time MLA of the TMC and had been a two-time mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation besides being a minister.
He was asked by the chief minister to resign from his post as both minister and mayor in November 2018 following problems in his personal life. Since then he had taken a sabbatical from politics and his joining BJP had taken TMC by surprise.
Buoyed by its performance in the Lok Sabha election when it had bagged 18 out of a total 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, only four less than the TMC, BJP leaders have been asserting that their next target is to unseat Banerjee from power in the 2021 state polls.