Prodded by 'Team PK' 12 Congress MLAs ditch Congress join Mamata

(Eds: Adding details)
Shillong, Nov 25 (PTI) Twelve of the 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya joined Mamata Banerjee's TMC on Thursday, with their leader Mukul Sangma blaming the grand old party's "ineffectiveness" to combat "divisive forces" for the decision that catapulted Mamata Banerjee's party from being a non-entity in state politics to becoming the opposition spearhead.

    The development not only added heft to TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee's already formidable reputation of a 'giant killer', having exterminated the BJP's ambition of ruling Bengal in the near future, but also fortified Prashant Kishor's image as an effective political negotiator and an election strategist.

    Sangma, who was the chief minister of the relatively calm northeastern state between 2010 and 2018, asserted the decision to shift allegiance to the TMC had its roots in the Congress's failure to fight the BJP which was growing stronger. But many say his action was prompted by his disaffection over the Congress leadership appointing Vincent H Pala as state party chief without consulting him.

    “As you are aware the divisive forces in the country are growing stronger. We have to take them head on. There is a void created by the ineffectiveness of the Congress, and our decision today to find an alternative pan-India party is to take on the NDA," Sangma told a press conference.

    "I am happy to announce that I along with these MLAs have formally joined the All India Trinamool Congress. We know the merger will bring better prospects for our state and for our country,” he said.

    He said the decision to join Mamata Banerjee's party was taken after "exhaustive due diligence and analysis" about how best to serve the people.

    Sangma alleged the Congress failed to take on the BJP and its allies in the state.

    “In my preceding years, we have not optimally served the state. The optimal utilisation of our potentiality can happen now,” he asserted, and indicated that before joining the TMC he and his team had visited New Delhi quite a few times to meet the Congress high command and discuss the issues plaguing the party but in vain.

    Sangma insisted there was no truth in suggestions that he quit Congress because of his differences with Pala.

    “In fact, as you recall, the INC leadership were clueless when we in Meghalaya were denied to form a government despite being elected the largest political party,” he said.

    The Congress had emerged as the single largest party in the 60-member assembly in the 2018 polls with 21 seats, but National People's Party of Conrad Sangma, which had won 19 seats, and ally BJP that bagged two, managed to stitch together a majority with smaller parties. An NPP-led coalition now rules the state.

    However, it was senior Congress leader and former assembly speaker Charles Pyngrope who let media in on the role Kishor played in convincing the disgruntled Congress MLAs to join the TMC bandwagon.

    “How the TMC took on the BJP in the recent assembly elections in West Bengal indicated that their strategies (where Kishor played a key role) worked,” he said.

    “I had the opportunity to meet with Kishor and the IPAC team. We realised we have a common vision to take the country forward and fight the communal forces in the country today,” he said, adding “it was better to join hands for a better cause and remove any ambiguity".

    Pyngrope said the defecting MLAs wanted to secure the "constitutional rights for our people”, and asserted he and other MLAs were not coerced to join the TMC.

    In the House of 60, the Congress has 17 MLAs of whom 12 have formally informed Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh of their merger decision.

    When queried about the remaining 5 MLAs, Mukul Sangma said the others are yet to make a decision.

    The development came on the heels of the Congress suffering a setback in the recent by-elections where it lost all the three seats it contested. It included two it had never lost.

    Mamata Banerjee, on her recent trip to the national capital this week, cast her net wide and had a good catch in three-term Congress MP from Bihar Kirti Azad, former JD(U) general secretary Pawan Varma and Haryana politician Ashok Tanwar, a former state Congress chief.

    The TMC has entered Tripura's political arena in a big way contesting a bitterly fought municipal election in the neighbouring state. It will also contest the assembly elections in Goa with the intention of pitching Banerjee firmly as the foremost anti-BJP opposition voice.

    As the anti-defection law permits merger of two-third members of a legislature group with another party without attracting penal provisions, the 12 Congress lawmakers will not be disqualified. PTI JOP SK


(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)