Popular Bollywood singer Babul Supriyo joined Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's ruling Trinamool Congress party in the eastern Indian state on Saturday, barely two months after he was dropped as a federal Minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 50-year-old parliamentarian is the fifth leader of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to join the Trinamool Congress in recent months.
Supriyo was formally welcomed to the party by Mamata's nephew and Trinamool's second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee at a small function at the party headquarters in state capital Kolkata. "If opportunity comes your way, you should decide, and I have decided to take this," Supriyo told the media, immediately after his induction into the Trinamool Congress.
On July 31, Supriyo announced his retirement from Indian politics, just a month after he was sacked as a federal Minister by Prime Minister Modi in a mega Cabinet rejig. "I'm leaving... farewell...," he wrote on Facebook. "If you want to do social work, you can do it without being in politics...let's organise myself a little first and then..."
However, at the time, the BJP MP from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal's Asansol constituency, made it clear that he would not join any other political party.
"Heard everyone's words -- father, (mother) wife, daughter, two dear friends...After hearing everything, I say that I am not going to any other party - #TMC, #Congress, #CPIM, nowhere...I am a one Team Player! Have always supported one team #MohunBagan...Have backed only BJP in West Bengal...That's it...I am going..." he wrote then.
Supriyo joined politics -- and the BJP -- some seven years ago. He served as junior Urban Development Minister and Minister of State for Heavy Industries in the Modi government's first five-year tenure. He was made the junior Environment and Forest Minister after the BJP returned to power in 2019.
Born Supriya Baral, he entered Bollywood as a playback singer in the mid-nineties and has sung for many films since then. He has also done playback singing in 11 Indian languages during his musical career.
Supriyo was, in fact, among 13 federal Ministers who were dropped by Prime Minister Modi in the Cabinet reshuffle a couple of months back -- some of the others being then Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
Experts believe that Supriyo's induction into the Trinamool Congress would be a big boost for Mamata, who single-handedly pulled off a landslide victory in April-May's assembly election for the third time in a row, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Modi's BJP.
West Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata had harped on being Bengal's daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after nearly 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.