On Wednesday, 23 December, Saumitra Khan, a member of parliament from prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sent a divorce notice to his wife, Sujata Mondal Khan, a day after she joined the state’s governing Trinamool congress party (TMC).
West Bengal is gearing up for a key assembly election due in a few months and the main contest is between the BJP and the TMC.
At a press conference in the state capital Kolkata, on Monday, 21 December, Ms Mondal Khan announced her decision to leave the BJP and listed several reasons for doing so.
She said the party had not shown any respect towards her, that it had taken in several corrupt leaders from rival political parties, promising to reward them at the expense of party loyalists.
A few hours later, at a hurriedly-called press conference which local reporters described as dramatic, Mr Khan, 40, fought back tears as he bared his anguish and vented his anger while announcing his decision to sever the 10-year relationship with his wife.
He asked his wife to drop his last name; “please refrain from using the Khan surname hereafter, please don’t refer to yourself as Saumitra Khan’s wife. I am giving you all the freedom to chart your political destiny, he said.
He then went on to accuse Trinamool of wrecking his home.
“The TMC has stolen my wife, it has snatched away my love, he said.
Since Monday’s press conferences, the couple have been sought out by the press and have given several interviews.
“She was my love, she was a very good wife, she was my only weakness and of course I’m emotional, we were together for 10 years, Mr Khan said.
He acknowledged his wife’s role in his election win last year, he was barred from entering his constituency by a court in connection with a criminal case and she had campaigned extensively on his behalf, going door-to-door asking for votes and visiting remote villages to give speeches.
“But our story is over, i have no connection with her anymore, he said.
Ms Mondal Khan too broke down in interviews as she accused her husband of neglecting her for the past 10 months.
“He’s been busy with politics, he has no time for me, for months he hasn’t bothered to ask if I have eaten or how I have slept, she said.
She also accused BJP leaders of instigating her husband and trying to ruin her marriage.
Defections and counter-defections are not uncommon in India, and they certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to Mr Khan as he started his career in the Congress party, moved to TMC in 2013 and joined the BJP only in January 2019.