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Already on the back foot owing to defections, the Congress in West Bengal suffered another major jolt on Monday – this time in its stronghold Malda – as five of its elected members along with 10 of the Left Front switched over to the Trinamool Congress giving it control of the zila parishad. In the 37-member House, TMC had only six members.
The development assumes significance as the TMC, which romped home with an absolute majority in the Assembly polls held only about three months ago, had drawn a blank in Malda.
While TMC claimed those who defected, wanted to “strengthen the hands of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” the Congress and the Left accused the ruling party of trying to establish a one-party rule in the state and distorting the basics of Indian democracy and Constitution.
Officially announcing the development, state Transport Minister and TMC’s in-charge of Malda district Suvendu Adhikari told reporters that five Congress members, including sabhadhipati Sarala Murmu, have joined the party. Seven CPM members too joined the TMC, while two of Socialist Party and one of Forward Bloc have confirmed their support to the ruling party.
All the defectors were inducted into the party by vice-president Mukul Roy.
Adhikari said that those who joined TMC did not support the “unethical alliance” between Congress and Left. “They have also been inspired by the development works undertaken by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” he said.
The actual strength of Malda zila parishad is 38. However, Dipali Biswas, who had won on CPM ticket in the Assembly polls and joined the TMC last month, resigned as zila parishad member bringing the total to 37. In the 2013 election, the Left and Congress had won 16 seats each while TMC got the remaining six. The Congress, led by Murmu, had formed the board with support of two members of the Socialist Party.
Some of the defected Congress members said they were fed up of the dynasty politics of Congress MPs Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury and Mausam Benazir Noor. However, Noor claimed that those who had left were turncoats. “They are traitors who would be taught a lesson by the people of Malda in time,” she said.
Commenting on the development, Leader of Opposition and state Congress leader Abdul Mannan said: “The TMC is trying to establish a one party rule in the state. They want to wipe off every sign of the Opposition from the state. They are afraid of the Opposition and that is why even after winning so many seats, they have to poach Opposition leaders and workers”.
CPM politburo member Mohammed Salim said TMC was trying to “distort the basics of democracy and constitution” of the country. “They don’t have an iota of respect for the basics of Indian democracy. That is why even after drawing blank in the Assembly elections in Malda district, they have the audacity to intimidate and poach on public representatives of the Opposition parties,” Salim said.
CPM district secretary Ambar Mitra said, “We will seek justice from people. Their mandate has been insulted. TMC leaders are engineering the defections by either enticing the elected members of other parties or threatening them.”
“The Congress will politically cease to exist in days to come in the state. The party will virtually turn into a signboard in days to come,” a senior TMC leader said.
In Murshidabad, the Congress faced a serious challenge to defend its zila parishad as eight of its members, one of CPM and another from AIFB had recently joined TMC taking the party’s members to 29 in the 70-member council.