Political acrimony in Bengal produced family drama on Monday as a BJP MP said he would file for divorce after his wife joined Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, becoming the exception in a tidal wave of defections to the BJP ahead of the state election. Shortly after Sujata Mondal Khan joined the Trinamool, her husband Saumitra Khan wept publicly and said "politics had ended his marriage".
Saumitra Khan, a former Trinamool leader, won the 2014 parliamentary election from the Bishnupur constituency and is chief of BJP's youth wing Yuva Morcha in Bengal. His wife of 10 years, Sujata, was credited with helping him win in last year's national election when he was barred by a court from entering his constituency as a condition for bail in a criminal case. She ran his campaign single-handedly and he won.
Sujata Khan, 34, was also a BJP member and even shared stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi while campaigning. She claimed she never received due acknowledgement in the BJP for the risks she took to ensure her husband's win.
"I want to breathe. I want respect. I want to be an able leader of an able party. I want to work with my beloved Didi," the former teacher told reporters on Monday. She complained that "newly inducted, misfit and corrupt leaders" were getting more importance in the BJP - an allusion to the Trinamool rebels who have recently joined the BJP.
"Despite enduring physical attacks, sacrificing so much to get my husband elected to Parliament, I got nothing in return," she alleged.
Saumitra Khan choked up on live TV, telling his estranged wife that divorce papers were on the way. "I will work as a soldier of the BJP. From today I am completely alone. I am sending you a divorce notice. I request you to sign it," he declared, eyes welling up.
"Our wedding album was not made because of politics... A 10-year relationship has ended because of politics. I will now work harder for the BJP," he said.
Sujata Khan told NDTV her family and politics was separate and it was up to her husband to decide what he wanted to do. "I hope he will realise one day... Who knows, he might be back in the Trinamool one day," she said.
On Saturday, the Trinamool suffered the worst exodus in its history as over 60 leaders, including an MP and half a dozen MLAs, crossed over to the BJP at Home Minister Amit Shah's rally.
The defections come with just four months to the Bengal assembly election. Mamata Banerjee, aiming for a third straight term, is facing a mega challenge from the BJP, which has seen significant gains in the state since last year's national election.