In a midnight coup, 12 of 17 Meghalaya Congress MLAs, led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma, announced their decision to join Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. "We will formally join the TMC under the leadership of Sangma," said MLA H.M. Shangpliang. The crossover is expected to be formalised on Thursday, with assembly speaker Metbah Lyngdoh being informed about their decision. As the anti-defection law permits merger of two-third members of a legislature group with another party, the 12 Congress lawmakers will not attract disqualification.
Congress has recently been facing an exodus of leaders. Some had joined the TMC, which is planning to expand its electoral footprint outside West Bengal with a focus on the 2024 general elections. Congress leader and ex-MP Kirti Azad and Ashok Tanwar, who quit the grand old party in 2019, joined the TMC in the presence of Mamata on Tuesday. Earlier, Congress leader and former chief minister of poll-bound Goa Louzinho Faleiro had joined the TMC. Before that, former MP and Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev had joined the party.
All these had given rise to speculations whether the Trinamool Congress was trying to supplant the Congress as the major opposition party ahead of the 2024 general elections. Adding to the speculation, Banerjee, who is in the national capital, had not visited Sonia Gandhi—when asked about her plans to call on Sonia, Mamata had said it is not mandatory to meet the Congress president every time she visits New Delhi. Mamata now has meetings aligned with Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
The Congress said they were not bothered by the developments. "We are not bothered about all these. If somebody is taking people from our party, it will not matter at all. If somebody is thinking that they can destroy the Congress one day, it will not happen. Many people have tried these kinds of things earlier also," K.C. Venugopal told reporters, when asked about leaders from the party joining the TMC. "Our motive is very clear and that is to fight against the anti-people, anti-poor government and fight with conviction and sincerity," he said, adding the other opposition parties should also do so if they want to attack the BJP.