Former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha, who joined the Trinamool Congress on February 13, said on Monday that the saffron party must lose the upcoming West Bengal Assembly polls and that its defeat will send a countrywide “message of assurance”, reported NDTV.

“This Bengal election, because of the hype the BJP has created around it, has suddenly become an election of national importance,” Sinha said in an interview to NDTV. “Therefore it is very important that Mamata wins and the BJP loses in Bengal. It will send a nationwide message of assurance.”

Elections to the 294-Assembly seats in West Bengal will be held in eight phases from March 27 to April 29. The results will be announced on May 2.

Sinha expressed confidence that the Trinamool Congress, led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, will win the polls with a thumping majority.

He spoke about the injures sustained by Banerjee while campaigning in Nandigram last week. “Despite the falsehoods, which has been sought to be spread by the BJP and other adversaries of Mamata Banerjee, the fact of the matter is that she is hurt,” he said. “That her leg is in a plaster cast. She is unable to move. She is hurt at many other places also. And she is still campaigning in this condition. So it is quite natural, this will evoke the sympathy of the people.”

The former Union minister said it was not for him to asses if his joining Trinamool Congress at this stage will have any impact.

“To tell you the truth, I just sent a very cryptic, small message to [TMC leader] Derek O’Brian, in which I said that if my joining the TMC will help you gain even one more seat, then I am willing to do that,” Sinha told NDTV. “And he moved very quickly and within a day, everything was tied up. I travelled to Kolkata, met Mamata Banerjee and joined the Trinamool Congress in the Trinamool office.”

Speaking about voting patterns in the state, he said Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress have their appeal across all sections, including the minorities. “Minorities have always voted very wisely in all elections,” Sinha added. “They know what is good for them, what is not good for them and therefore they will vote very wisely.”

He said that actor Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the BJP on March 7, was not very crucial in the polls. “The biggest star in West Bengal is Mamata Banerjee herself,” the former minister said. “There is no other star who can come anywhere near her.”

Sinha went on to narrate the Kandahar hijack incident and Banerjee’s role in it. “In the Cabinet meeting, Mamata Banerjee offered to help – she was prepared to go to Kandahar and offer herself as a hostage in lieu of the release of the passengers of the Indian Airlines plane,” he said. “It was I though a very courageous act on her part to make the offer. Of course, the situation was not very conducive to this type of bargain so it didn’t really materialise.”

He had also spoken about this at a press conference after joining the ruling party. Banerjee was the Railway Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet when the Kandahar hijacking incident took place. An Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, bound for Delhi, was flown to Kandahar. The crisis ended after India released three terrorists – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Masood Azhar.

On whether the West Bengal chief minister can unite the Opposition at the central level, Sinha told NDTV that the victory in the upcoming polls will add to her importance among the country’s many leaders.