The Congress Monday suffered yet another major jolt in West Bengal with three of its MLAs, including chief whip of the Congress Legislature Party Asit Mal, joining the ruling Trinamool Congress even as party’s state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury put up a brave face saying such desertions do not affect him.
Apart from Mal, who represents Hasan constituency of Birbhum district, the two other Congress MLAs who joined the TMC at its Martyrs’ Day rally at Esplanade area in Kolkata, are Umapada Bauri of Para Assembly constituency in Purulia and Ghulam Rabbani of Goalpakhar in North Dinajpur district.
With this, seven Congress MLAs have switched sides to the TMC since the 2011 Assembly polls, thus reducing the strength of in the Assembly to 35 from 42. The party had earlier suspended two other MLAs —- Imani Biswas and Sushil Roy —- for voting for the TMC candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls. The duo are expected to formally resign from the Congress and join the TMC soon.
Apart from the three Congress legislators, CPI-M’s Chandrakona MLA Chhaya Dolui too joined the TMC, bringing down the party’s strength from 40 to 39 in the Assembly.
Welcoming all four, TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, extended invitation to other members of the Congress and the CPIM to join her party. “The Trinamool Congress has now become a party of the masses. Those who want to work for the people should join us,” Mamata said addressing the mammoth gathering.
On their part, the Congress MLAs said they switched allegiance “for the development” of the state, “which we believe can be brought about by Mamatadi only”. “More MLAs and workers from the party are going to join the TMC as this is the party, which is engaged in building the future of the state,” Asit Mal later told The Indian Express.
The latest exodus has put questions over the ability of the party chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to keep his flock together in the wake of fierce poaching by the TMC. Many party leaders The Indian Express spoke to, blamed Adhir for the sorry state of the Congress in Bengal and said if the PCC chief didn’t change his style of functioning, the party would suffer further depletion in its strength.
“Chowdhury considers the state unit as Murshidabad Congress (PCC chief’s home district). He insults other leaders. He has no master plan for the future of the party and he does not know how to get along with other leaders and workers. In fact, he has come here to kill the party,” a senior leader told The Indian Express.
Chowdhury, however, presented a brave face. “Those who are leaving, are going for their own interests. Congress is a big institution. These betrayals do not affect it,” Chaudhury told The Indian Express.
He said, as the party president he was am not perturbed as some leaders might desert the Congress but “the workers remained with the party”.
The Congress has already suffered a major erosion in north Bengal — which was considered party bastion — with more than 50 panchayat samitis and several civic bodies being bagged by the TMC.
After the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections the Adhir had convened two meetings. Both witnessed quarrels and fisticuffs.
The Congress had won 42 Assembly seats in 2011 when it contested the election in alliance with the TMC, but the alliance broke in September 2012 when Mamata had decided to withdraw support to the then UPA II government at the Centre and the Congress also withdrew its ministers from the state cabinet.