A family drama starring a couple torn apart by politics, a likely divorce notice, the near-collapse of a 10-year-old relationship, an emotionally charged press conference beamed on live television, and tearful bytes to the media.
Twists and turns straight out of a Bollywood movie played out on West Bengal’s political stage on Monday, shortly after a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarian’s wife joined the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the state where elections are due in early 2021.
The decision by Sujata Mondal Khan, wife of the BJP’s Bengal youth front president Saumitra Khan, resulted in some melodramatic exchanges between the two, aired on news channels.
“I am heartbroken to see 10 years of companionship coming to an end in this manner. The Lakshmi (the Hindu goddess of prosperity) of my home has been stolen,” Saumitra Khan, 39, said at a press conference as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Sujata, I will send you papers for mutual divorce. Please sign them and do not use Khan, my surname, from today,” he added.
About an hour later, it was Sujata Khan’s turn. “I married him going against the wish of my family. I love him and will always do so. I still have the red sindoor (vermilion) on my forehead (a sign of a married woman),” she responded in front of reporters. “Can a personal relationship end in divorce because of politics? No TMC leader told me that I have to divorce him to join the party.”
Sujata Khan alleged that the BJP was filling its ranks with corrupt and ambitious leaders. She said she hadn’t been shown any respect in the BJP although she worked hard for it. The 32-year-old did not hold any significant post in the BJP. The move triggered unprecedented drama, with Saumitra Khan calling a media conference and declaring that he would send his wife divorce papers in 24 hours.
Saumitra Khan is a former TMC leader who joined the BJP in January 2019. He was the TMC’s Lok Sabha member from Bishnupur in Bankura district. He retained the seat by contesting for the BJP and was made president of the state BJYM about three months ago.
Speaking at the TMC headquarters in Kolkata , before her husband reacted, Sujata Khan said: “I observed with pain that people who are corrupt and overambitious, those who can be called rotten apples, are being herded into the BJP. There is no place for hardworking people who fight for their principles.”
Sujata Khan was welcomed into the TMC by Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy and spokesperson Kunal Ghosh. “Sujata is like my daughter. We are happy to have her in the party,” said Roy.
Her move came two days after seven TMC legislators, including prominent leader Suvendu Adhikari, and three others from the Left and the Congress joined the BJP in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah at a rally in Midnapore town. Jay Prakash Majumdar, state vice-president of the BJP, said: “Unlike Saumitra Khan, his wife does not have a history in politics. This does not have any political significance for us.”
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