Former union minister Yashwant Sinha, a bitter critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regime, who on Saturday joined Trinamool Congress, has now been appointed the party’s vice president and also made a member of the TMC national working committee.
Sinha joined the TMC just days ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections, saying the tipping point for him to return to active politics was the ‘attack’ on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Sinha, a senior BJP leader who was a cabinet minister of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, told reporters that democracy is in peril in the country and it is the need of the hour to ensure that TMC wins the poll with a thumping majority.
TMC's win will herald the defeat of the Modi government in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and save the country, he said.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician said the attack on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nandigram of which she told him during the 45-minute conversation with him during the day was the 'tipping point' for his joining TMC.
'This government (BJP) can do anything to win the election. The attack on Mamata Ji made me decide that I want to work with her,' the former union minister said about the March 10 incident.
The TMC supremo was allowed by the doctors to go home Friday evening after staying in a state-run hospital in the city for two days.
Sinha had quit the saffron party in 2018 after having serious differences with the present party leadership.
His son Jayant Sinha is the BJP MP from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.
The octagenarian leader had campaigned for TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Speaking after joining TMC at its office in Kolkata, Sinha made a scathing attack on Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah and said that democracy is under threat in the country under them.
'The strength of democracy lies in the robustness of its institutions; all the institutions have been weakened systematically,' Sinha said.
'The country is faced with strange situation. The values and principles we gave so much importance, the founding principles of our Republic are not being followed.
'The farmers of the country are sitting near Delhi for months but the government doesn't care. The ruling party (BJP) has only one objective - win elections by any means,' he said.
The senior politician pledged support to Banerjee in her fight against the BJP.
'TMC will win the polls by a thumping majority. But, we have to increase the victory to another level ... It is a serious fight today - not merely to win elections but to save the Republic '.
'(Gopal Krishna) Gokhale had famously said 'What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow'. Bengal should herald changes. The win of TMC in West Bengal assembly polls will ring in changes in 2024 general elections and defeat the BJP led by them (Modi-Shah),' Sinha said.
The BJP that was led by Vajpayee was vastly different from the saffron party of today, Sinha said.
'Atal Ji believed in consensus. Now Modi and Shah believe in crushing any contrary opinion. Atal Ji believed in taking people along, but the present BJP regime believes in conquering people.
'Atal ji believed in coalition, now coalition partners are leaving BJP one after another,' he quipped.
Sinha said migrant labourers were forced to come back home on foot during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown while education, healthcare sectors are going through a rough phase.
But the BJP-led government at the Centre does not seem to be bothered.
He recalled that during the Kandahar hijack in 1999 when TMC was a coalition partner in the Vajpayee government, Banerjee had volunteered at the cabinet meeting to go and meet the hijackers to secure the release of hostages.
'She had said she is not afraid of her life. She was ready to give her life for the country. She has remained a fighter,' he said about the TMC supremo.
According to political observers, Sinha's joining Trinamool Congress might not help it win votes but his utterances against the BJP could lend weight to its offennsive against the saffron party in the high voltage Bengal polls.
'We welcome Yashwant Sinha to our party. His participation will strengthen our fight against BJP in the coming election,' TMC Lok Sabha party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said welcoming Sinha to the party fold.
According to TMC sources, Sinha might be TMCs nominee for the Rajya Sabha seat which has been vacant after Dinesh Trivedi quit his post and party to switch over to the saffron camp recently.
People like Sinha who has vast experience in governance and politics is an asset for any party both inside the Parliament and outside,' he said.
The Bengal BJP, however, declined to comment on the issue.
Yashwant Sinha has left BJP long back. We dont want to comment on his joining TMC, a senior BJP leader said.
Sinha was the union finance minister twice - once in the Chandra Sekhar cabinet in 1990 and again in the Vajpayee cabinet.
He also held the portfolio of the external affairs ministry in the Vajpayee cabinet.
He had served as the principal secretary to the then Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur in 1977.
Influenced by Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan Sinha had resigned from the IAS in 1984 and had plunged into politics. Inputs: PTI, ANI