NEW DELHI : Three West Bengal legislators and 52 councillors on Tuesday defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), dealing a major blow to party chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The development comes a few days after the BJP made massive gains in the state, winning 18 of 42 Lok Sabha seats with a 40% vote share, while the TMC was reduced to 22 seats. In 2014, the BJP had won two seats with a 17% vote share, while the TMC had got 34.

The defections could further weaken a party that has been eyeing a third term in the 2021 assembly polls.

TMC legislators Subhrangshu Roy, who was under suspension, and Tushar Kanti Bhattacharya, as well as Debendra Nath Roy of the Communist Party of India(Marxist) joined the BJP at the party’s New Delhi headquarters on Tuesday.

“Like the elections were held in seven phases in Bengal, the moves to the BJP will also happen in seven phases. Today was just the first phase," said Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP’s national general secretary.

Subhrangshu Roy, who is the son of West Bengal BJP leader Mukul Roy, had been suspended by the TMC last week for allegedly making “anti-TMC comments" in the wake of the poll debacle.

“Mukul Roy had proved beneficial for the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal. He knows the people and he knew the TMC. Like him, Subhrangshu will also prove to be a good asset for the BJP, which is now looking at making further inroads in the state," said a BJP on-ground worker.

Banerjee rejigged the state cabinet on Tuesday. Among the top posts, Suvendu Adhikary was made irrigation and transport minister, Somen Mahapatra public health, engineering and environment minister and Rajib Banerjee tribal development minister.

Meanwhile, the BJP state unit is now waiting to roll out its strategy in West Bengal for the next two years. “The way things have unfolded in the panchayat elections and in the Lok Sabha elections now, show very clearly that the people want a change and that change is BJP. They are tired of the current leadership and the central leadership will now decide on how to move forward from here for the next round of polls," said Dilip Ghosh, president of the BJP West Bengal unit.

A BJP ground worker said, “The TMC had stopped people from voting in the last panchayat elections, by way of booth capturing. They repeated it this time too. So the violence really worked in BJP’s favour because this time—and we are confident that it will happen in 2021 as well—the people voted for BJP because they are tired of the TMC’s tactics. At least the Left was not violent like this."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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