Congress suffered another jolt in the state on Friday as its four-term MLA and deputy leader of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP), Rabindranath Chatterjee, joined the ruling Trinamool Congress.
At Trinamool Bhavan, Chatterjee — who was elected from Burdwan’s Katwa constituency in 2011 — joined the party along with 65 supporters in the presence of Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee and party youth wing president Abhishek Banerjee. The supporters included 10 Congress councillors and four panchayat pradhans from Katwa.
“Rabindranath Chatterjee has decided to join the TMC as he feels that TMC is the only party which works for the development of the state under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee. He too wants to take part in the development of our ‘Maa Mati Manush’ government and work for the people,” state Education and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said.
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“Chatterjee brought 65 Congress members to Trinamool. They want to support the government in its work for the people of Bengal. With Chatterjee with us, our organisation will have more strength in Burdwan,” he added.
On Wednesday, Chatterjee had written to CLP leader Mohammed Sohrab seeking exemption from the post of deputy leader. Sohrab, however, reportedly asked Chatterjee to reconsider his decision. On Thursday, Chatterjee tendered his resignation to state Congress chief Adhir Choudhury.
Sources in the Congress alleged that Trinamool has forced Chatterjee to quit by registering a murder case against him. Besides this, at least 26 cases, including murder and attempt to murder, are pending against him.
Chatterjee, however, claimed he has joined Trinamool for the sake of developing his area.
“It is true that recently, I was booked for murder. But I did not quit Congress under pressure. These are all political cases. Political cases used to be slapped against us during the Left era too. I have at least 26 cases against me.”
“State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury has tried to change my mind. But I have already taken the final call.
Today, I joined Trinamool as one of its vice-presidents,” he added.
“I have joined the Trinamool because I think it will be easier for me to work for the masses if I am a member of the ruling party. In Congress, I was having a problem in working for the people,” Chatterjee claimed.
Last week, Chatterjee had met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fuelling speculation of a switch over.
With Chatterjee joining Trinamool, the total number of Congress MLAs who switched over to the the ruling party since the 2011 Assembly poll has reached 10, reducing Congress’ strength in the Assembly to 32 from 42.
Congress had won 42 seats in the 2011 Assembly polls when it had contested the election in alliance with TMC. But the alliance broke in September 2012 when Trinamool withdrew support to the then UPA II government at the Centre and Congress in turn withdrew its ministers from the state cabinet.
Former state Congress president and Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya termed Chatterjee’s decision as unfortunate.