IN A fresh jolt to Congress in West Bengal, the party’s West Midnapore district chief Bikas Ranjan Bhunia, brother of senior party leader Manas Bhunia, Thursday joined Trinamool Congress.
Along with Bikas, who was also the West Midnapore zila parishad member, 22 other party leaders including gram panchayat members joined TMC, giving it control of Sabang panchayat samiti. In the 39-member samiti, TMC now has 37 councillors, up by 23 from earlier 14.
The leaders were inducted into the TMC by Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee who is also Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.
“Bikas along with several other Congress leaders of Sabang, members of two Left-controlled panchayat samities of Diamond Harbour and a Kolkata Municipal Corporation councillor of Forward Bloc joined TMC today. Panchayat body members are joining TMC as they want to be part of the developmental process started by Mamata Banerjee,” Abhishek said.
When asked whether Manas would also be welcomed in TMC, Abhishek said, “He is a seasoned, experienced and good politician. It is he who has to decide about his own political future.”
Interestingly, 10 of those who joined TMC, including Bikas, are named as accused in the murder of TMC leader from Dubrajpur, Joydeb Jana, who was killed during the Assembly elections earlier this year. Manas too is a prime accused in the case.
Asked if Bikas was joining TMC to get a clean chit in the case, Abhishek said, “The matter is before the court. We have full faith in the judiciary. We will not comment on a matter which is sub-judice.”
Bikas claimed termed his joining the TMC a purely political move. “We have switched, in order to work for the development of our area under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee,” he added.
On his brother switching over to TMC, Manas said: “It is his personal decision. If someone is frustrated with the party leadership and wants to join some other party then how can I stop him. Some of those who joined the TMC today told me that they were disappointed with the state leadership. (PCC chief) Adhir Chowdhury and (Leader of Opposition) Abdul Mannan had not bothered to see how they were suffering. They told me that if a leader of Manas Bhunia’s stature was suffering so much within the party, what would be their fate”.
On whether he would join TMC if he gets an offer, Manas said: “How can I comment on ifs and buts. First let me get the offer. Regarding Abhishek’s comment about my political future I just want to say he is a good and young politician.”
Meanwhile, Adhir hit back at Manas saying “one Bhunia is gone and there might be other Bhunias who will follow the same route.”
Manas had been showcaused by Congress for refusing to step down from the post of the chairman of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in West Bengal Assembly despite repeated requests by party leaders. Thirty-nine party MLAs had jointly appealed to Bhunia to resign from that post.
Congress wants to give the PAC chairman’s post to CPM, with which it had jointly contested the Assembly elections earlier this year.