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Will Sushmita Dev ease Mamata Banerjee’s entry into Assam, Tripura?

Sushmita, who resigned from the Congress, is likely to join TMC today

sushmita dev Sushmita Dev | Official Twitter handle

Sushmita Dev, daughter of northeast’s iconic Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev, is all set to join the Trinamool Congress.

Sushmita resigned from the Congress and landed in Kolkata on Monday. Sources confirmed to THE WEEK that she will meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Sushmita did not respond to the correspondent’s calls for comment. ‘Deeply shocked’ by Sushmita’s decision, Assam Congress MP Ripun Bora said, "She was a very committed leader of our party."

Sushmita, former MP of the Congress from Silchar, was defeated in the last Lok Sabha election by Rajdeep Roy, one of the BJP's most popular Bengali faces in the northeast. Roy is a renowned orthopaedic surgeon from the region whose patients even include many opposition politicians.

Sushmita's father Santosh Mohan was the contemporary of former president Pranab Mukherjee and was also close to Indira Gandhi. He was a member of Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh cabinets. A prominent voice of Bengalis in the northeast, he was the main leader in the seven northeastern states in the seventies till his death in 2017. He was very popular in Bengal as he was a close associate of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, former chief minister of West Bengal.

What is also noteworthy is he used to guide Mamata, along with Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, in parliament when Mamata first entered the Lok Sabha in 1984.  "However, Priya da used to lose election in Bengal but Santosh da won most of the time from Silchar," said a senior Congress leader in Bengal.

Santosh Mohan was highly respected by Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Always frank, his inside-party outbursts against complacent party colleagues in Bengal who were unable to unseat communists, earned both praises and criticism for him. The man was equally popular in Tripura like Silchar, as Agartala was also full of refugees coming from Bangladesh.

At this moment, perhaps Mamata has struck a huge blow to the Congress by deciding to induct her one-time Delhi-mentor's daughter. No one would claim that Sushmita is as charismatic as her father, but she had little space in the Congress beyond Silchar. With Mamata struggling to get entry into Tripura, as BJP workers are attacking her party leaders and even ministers, the help from Sushmita to understand the society of Tripura is much needed for Mamata. Though largely inhabited by Bengalis, Tripura’s politics is different from that of Bengal.

For Congress, it is a major blow for the party in Silchar as the party is hardly left with any top leader in Barak Valley. The BJP would now have a field day in Silchar.

Mamata had recently met with Left-leaning peasant leader Akhil Gogoi to establish base in other areas of upper Assam. Her next stop would definitely be an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal of AIDUF if she would like to become a formidable force in Assam. But that is a long road to tread for her in Assam. 

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