Meghalaya Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh on Thursday said a letter written by 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs of the state informing him that they have joined the Trinamool Congress was being examined, and there was no irregularity in the matter.
IMAGE: Former Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma speaks to the media over the decision to go with the Trinamool Congress, in Shillong on Thursday. Photograph: ANI Photo
The desertion by more than two-thirds of the Congress legislative party makes TMC, a newbie in Meghalaya, the principal opposition in the Northeastern state.
Lyngdoh said he has also received another letter from TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee recognising the 12 legislators as members of his party.
“I have received their letter and I am examining it. Whatever needs to be done will be done at the earliest,” the speaker told journalists in Shillong.
Leader of the opposition and former chief minister Mukul Sangma, ex-Assembly speaker Charles Pyngrope and 10 other legislators on Thursday announced the decision to shift their allegiance to the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC.
The development added heft to TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee’s reputation of being a successful, albeit unpredictable, ‘political juggernaut’, having steam-rolled over Bharatiya Janata Party’s ambition of ruling Bengal in the near future.
It also strengthened Prashant Kishor’s image as an emerging ‘Chanakya’ in political strategising.
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.
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.
The breakaway Congress group had on Wednesday submitted a list of MLAs crossing over to the TMC to the Speaker and informed him about their decision.
All the 12 MLAs who were signatories to the letter met Lyngdoh for personal verification on Thursday.
The Speaker ruled out any illegality in their joining the TMC.
“They are qualified (to join), there is no doubt about it… I need some time to examine the matter and communicate to them,” he said.
Several of the disgruntled MLAs let on to how the entire exercise was stitched together by Kishor, who is known to have been advising Banerjee.
The BJP which was worsted at the hustings by the TMC in West Bengal earlier this year is under a ‘kind of siege’ according to analysts who point out that the TMC is trying to gain a foothold in states like Goa, Tripura and Meghalaya where the BJP or BJP supported governments are in power.
All India Congress Committee in-charge Manish Chatrath, who flew in to Meghalaya to control the damage wreaked by the desertion, denied Sangma’s claim that the grand old party was ‘ineffective’ to combat ‘divisive forces’.
“If Mukul stated that the Congress was ineffective, it is he who is to be blamed as he is the CLP (Congress Legislature Party) leader,” he said.
AICC chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the BJP has been using ‘power of currency’ to topple elected governments, and wondered if other parties ‘join the same style and brand of politics, then how are you different?’