Sreerampur (West Bengal)/Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday sparked off a major row in West Bengal with his warning to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that her MLAs will abandon her after the results of the Lok Sabha polls come out and 40 of them were already in touch with him.
Reacting angrily, the Trinamool Congress charged him with horse-trading, but BJP leaders backed Modi's statement, saying the state's ruling party would collapse once the results of the seven-phase polls are declared.
"When the lotus will bloom all over Bengal after May 23, Didi (Banerjee), you will see that your MLAs will also abandon you and run away. Forty of your MLAs are in touch with me even today," Modi told an election rally in Hooghly district.
"It will be tough for you to save yourself. You have cheated the people of Bengal," he said.
Trinamool spokesman and Rajya Sabha leader Derek O'Brien said his party would move the Election Commission charging Modi with horse trading.
However, he also rubbished Modi's statement, claiming nobody will go with him.
"Expiry Babu PM, let's get this straight. Nobody will go with you. Not even one councillor. Are you election campaigning or horse trading! Your expiry date is near. Today, we are complaining to the Election Commission. Charging you with horse trading," he tweeted.
But BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha endorsed Modi's comments and said many of the Trinamool leaders as well as senior state and police officers are in touch with his party.
"We have said earlier that many Trinamool leaders are in touch with us. You will see that after the election results are out on May 23, cracks will emerge in Trinamool Congress. Many of them will migrate to our party," Sinha told IANS.
"Also a number of senior state officers and police officers who are now forced to work for the state's ruling regime are also calling us and saying that they are forced to do so to protect their jobs. Things will change after the poll result," he added.
BJP state Secretary Ritesh Tiwari seconded Sinha.
"The BJP will win a majority of the 42 seats. And once the elections are announced, the Trinamool government will go, as the party will collapse like a packet of cards. There are some good people in Trinamool. They will join us. The good persons among their MLAs will also cross over to our side," Tiwari told IANS.
Trinamool legislator Arjun Singh, who joined the BJP and is now the saffron party's candidate from Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency, said a month back that 100 legislators from the ruling party would join the BJP "soon".
The four-time legislator from Bhatpara told media persons on March 27 that some of the lawmakers would come to the saffron party's fold before the coming general elections, while theothers would cross over after the polls.
He said the legislators were keeping regular contact with the BJP leaders.
Left Front legislature party leader and CPI-M state secretariat member Sujan Chakraborty accused the Prime Minister of resorting to horse-trading, but also said Banerjee is being given a dose of her own medicine.
"It is clear-cut horse trading. It shows the Prime Minister does not have faith in democracy and people's opinion. He is talking about stealing away leaders from the opposition party.
"Mamata Banerjee resorted to the same tactics earlier. She wooed away leaders from other parties. Now she is being paid back in her own coin. Modi and Mamata are complementing each other," Chakraborty told IANS.