Shortly after the I-PAC episode, wherein the Tripura Police purportedly detained and later booked 23 members of political strategist Prashant Kishor’s outfit during a survey in the state, the Trinamool Congress has got a fresh lease of life in the state as seven senior Congress leaders including former minister Prakash Chandra Das, former MLA Subal Bhowmik, All India Congress Committee (AICC) member Panna Deb, Congress minority leader Md. Idris Miah, Premtosh Debnath, Bikash Das, Tapan Dutta etc. joined the TMC.
Announcing the joining, West Bengal education minister Bratya Basu Thursday said his party’s political activities were scuttled due to the ongoing COVID curfew norms in Tripura. He also questioned the Biplab Deb-led government on its policy of purportedly obstructing the I-PAC team members from conducting their assignment and asked the Chief Minister to give free hand to I-PAC and abstain from taking “politically motivated decisions” in future. The development comes at a time when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has met the Congress leadership in Delhi calling for a united fight against the BJP.
Former MLA and senior Congress leader Subal Bhowmik, who joined Trinamool Congress today, said he decided to join the party in the “interest of people and for the sake of time”.
Bhowmik has changed political parties seven times till now and used to be BJP’s state vice president till 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when he shifted to Congress and contested on a Congress ticket. He lost to BJP contestant Pratima Bhowmik, who is now a minister of state in the Modi cabinet.
Speaking on his decision to join the TMC, Bhowmik said, “It is true that we have had to take the decision in the interest of the people of the state and for the sake of time. Our leader Mamata Banerjee has put up such a fight that people across the country accepted that she is the only leader who can show direction to this country and take it towards development”.
In a sharp criticism of the BJP-led state government in Tripura, Bhowmik said, “There has been jungle raaj in Tripura since the last four years. There is no freedom of people, speech and democratic rights. The ruling party alone can do everything… They want to create an ambience of terror by weakening the federal structure of the government where people don’t enjoy their basic rights”.
He also questioned why 40 people led by him were stopped from joining the Trinamool Congress today citing Covid-19 rule, while law minister Ratan Lal Nath “distributed relief aid at a gathering of about 5000 people.” “People want to know what action was taken against the law minister for violating the disaster management act. People want to know what about the different political meetings held in different halls of the state. During this government’s tenure, some are misusing the administration to fulfill their personal vested interests,” Bhowmik said.
While claiming that the Trinamool Congress will form the government in Tripura in 2023, Subal Bhowmik also asserted that the BJP will not gain a single seat in the assembly polls.
Bengal law minister Moloy Ghatak said Tripura was misusing the COVID protocol to stop the opposition’s political activities. “There is a total weekend curfew in Tripura. The state government has issued orders banning all political activities. We want to abide by the set rules. So, we called seven joinees instead of 40 here today,” he said adding that TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee would visit the state on Monday and discuss organisational activities.
Ghatak has been visiting the state along with minister Bratya Basu, TMC MP Kakali Ghosh Dastidar and Derek O’Brien since the last two days.
Criticising the Biplab Deb-led government in Tripura, TMC MP Kakali Ghosh Dastidar said democratic rights are being “unconstitutionally curtailed” in Tripura.
“The Constitution grants us freedom of speech and expression, but these rights are scuttled in Tripura. Many women came to me and offered to join here, maintaining all COVID norms. But they were not allowed to enter the hotel premises. We have joined 30 women as invitee members for starters. They will propagate the ideals of Mamata Banerjee in the villages”, she said.
She also questioned the BJP over its claim of developmental activities and questioned halting of the resumption of work at Kailashahar airport and retrenchment of 10,323 school teachers.
Reacting to the TMC joining, Pradesh Congress president Pijush Kanti Biswas said the deserters have no “political stability” and are “infamous” for frequently changing political parties. “These people had no active connection with the Congress since the last 1.5 years. They were totally inactive. Now that we are working to reconstitute the party structure, they have left. They are rudderless ships and lack political material and sincerity,” he said.
He also questioned the TMC leadership for trying to break the rank and file of the Congress while Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee is in talks with the Congress high command for a united fight against the BJP.
Taking potshots at the Trinamool Congress for its allegations against his party, BJP spokesperson Subrata Chakraborty said those who joined the TMC were trying to do “shifting cultivation” between political parties. “They have personal and political freedom. We have nothing to say about it. They are joining the jungle raaj, not leaving it. The situation of West Bengal reflects it,” Chakraborty said.
The Trinamool Congress has made three previous attempts to expand the party based in Tripura, starting with former chief minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumder, who started TMC’s state unit in 1999. Six Congress MLAs shifted camps and joined the TMC in 2016, only to further shift to the BJP a year later. TMC’s rank and file has seen a slight swell since the party’s win in Bengal earlier this year.
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