Siliguri (West Bengal): Days after hosting BJP President Amit Shah for lunch at their village home, a tribal couple -- Raju and Geeta Mahali -- joined West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress on Wednesday.
Trinamool's Darjeeling district President and Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said they joined the party of their "own will", but BJP state President Dilip Ghosh alleged that the couple was forced.
Reading out a written note from the Mahalis, Deb said: "On being convinced about the developmental work undertaken by the state government led by (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee, we have joined the Trinamool Congress of our own choice and will."
Denying 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 since yesterday (Tuesday). We lodged a missing complaint (with police). The couple did not join the Trinamool willingly but were forced."
Criticising the Trinamool Congress, BJP's National Secretary Rahul Sinha said: "The incident proves that days of the Trinamool rule are numbered. It reveals Trinamool's political poverty. They had to abduct members of a family who offered lunch to our President Amit Shah."
"The Mahali couple joined the Trinamool but their hearts are with the BJP," he told reporters in Kolkata.
He announced that the BJP will launch massive protests against such "torture" inflicted by the Trinamool Congress on a Scheduled Tribe family.
"The incident indicates that the ruling party can torture anyone. The state government becomes a machinery of the ruling party," Sinha alleged, adding that the state BJP leaders will meet West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi.
"We demand Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's statement on the issue within six hours," Sinha said.
BJP's Darjeeling MP S.S Ahluwalia said the couple was abducted by the Trinamool Congress' miscreants and promised a concrete house if they joined the ruling TMC.
"They were enticed with promise of a concrete house and other things. Later, Raju was abducted last (Tuesday) morning and his wife and children abducted in the evening. They were forced to join the party."
Ignoring the BJP leaders' allegations, Deb said, "What the BJP is saying is immaterial. The Mahali couple has given a statement that they joined the Trinamool willingly."
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 a vegetarian fare on a banana leaf by Mahali's wife.
Asked about the feeling after joining the Trinamool, Geeta said, "We are feeling good."