A week after after hosting BJP President Amit Shah for lunch, a tribal couple - Raju and Geeta Mahali - joined West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress on Wednesday, leaving the saffron party red-faced.
Trinamool’s Darjeeling district President and state Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said the couple joined the Mamata Banerjee’s party of their own “will”. However, the BJP state President Dilip Ghosh alleged that the couple was forced.
Reading out a written note from the Mahali couple, Deb said: “On being convinced about the developmental work undertaken by the state government led by (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee, we have joined Trinamool Congress of our own choice and will.”
Refuting Deb’s claim, Ghosh said: "The tribal couple was threatened. The local Trinamool leaders pressurised them to invite the ruling party's leaders at their house.
"They were missing for the last few days. We had lodged a missing complaint. The couple did not join Trinamool willingly but were forced."
During the first leg of his ‘Vistar Yatra’ to expand the Bharatiya Janata Party’s base, Shah had lunch at the house of tribal daily wager Raju Mahali. He makes a living by painting apartments and buildings.
Shah had sat on the floor at the spartan house in Dakkhin Katiajote village in West Bengal's Naxalbari block and was served vegetarian fare on a banana leaf by Mahali's wife.