Defections in the Trinamool Congress continued on Monday as five sitting MLAs and another leader belonging to the party joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in Kolkata ahead of the Assembly polls, reported PTI. Bengali actor Tanusree Chakraborty also joined the BJP.

The MLAs who switched over to the saffron party are Sonali Guha, Dipendu Biswas, Rabindranath Bhattacharya, Jatu Lahiri and Sital Sardar. Another TMC leader Sarala Murmu also defected to the BJP. They were given the party flags by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh in the presence of other leaders such as Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy.

Murmu was earlier in the day replaced as the Trinamool Congress candidate from the Habibpur constituency. The decision was taken amid rumours that she would join the BJP after the TMC refused to allow her to contest from the Old Malda seat. The Mamata Banerjee-led party, however, said that the decision to replace Murmu was due to the leader’s “ill health”.

Sonali Guha, a close aide to Banerjee, and Rabindranath Bhattacharya switched sides after they were denied the poll ticket. Four-time MLA Jatu Lahiri and former footballer Dipendu Biswas joined the saffron party as their names did not feature in the list of candidates released on March 5.

Lahiri told India Today that he was insulted after his name did not appear in the list. “I was not informed and my name was not on the list,” he said. “Just because of my age? I can still walk steadily on my own. I have been insulted. That’s why I joined BJP.” Lahiri also hit out at Banerjee, saying that she is a “person who is dishonest and cannot prosper”.

Defections from TMC

The Trinamool Congress has been witnessing a spate of defections ahead of the eight-phased elections in the state, from March 27 to April 29.

Political turmoil began for ruling party after Adhikari, a former state minister and a close associate of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, quit the party in December. After a long-drawn period of public dissatisfaction with the ruling TMC, Adhikari joined the BJP during Shah’s two-day visit to West Bengal on December 19. He resigned from all the positions he held in the Trinamool Congress on December 17, a day after he resigned as a member of the Legislative Assembly and almost 20 days after he resigned as West Bengal transport minister. He had quit from the post of chairperson of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners too.

Oher resignations followed.

On March 6, former Railways Minister and Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi became the latest addition to the long list of defectors. He joined the BJP in New Delhi, in what he called a “golden moment”, in the presence of party president JP Nadda and others.

On March 2, months after quitting and then making a U-turn to join the Trinamool Congress again, Jitendra Tiwari joined the BJP. Last month, Diamond Harbour MLA Dipak Halder joined the BJP, a day after quitting the Trinamool Congress.

On January 31, former West Bengal minister Rajib Banerjee joined the BJP along with MLAs Prabir Ghosal and Baishali Dalmiya, former Howrah Mayor Rathin Chakraborty and actor Rudranil Ghosh.

On January 5, West Bengal Minister of State for Youth Services and Sports Laxmi Ratan Shukla resigned from his post. He will, however, continue as an MLA.