Plagued by defections and a weak organisation, the Congress is staring at “political extinction” in West Bengal, even as CPI(M) claims that “such poachings have never happened before” in the state.
The two opposition parties have come down heavily on the rulling Trinamool Congress for “poaching into the opposition turf and taking away its legislators”.
After the last Assembly elections which gave a thumping majority to the Trinamool Congress, the party managed to take over almost all the Opposition-controlled municipalities and panchayats in
the state, with Councillors and Panchayat members shifting to the TMC-fold from either Congress or Left Front constituents.
Since May 2016, five MLAs of Congress, including former PCC President Manas Bhunia and one from CPI(M) have switched over to TMC, bringing down the Opposition tally from 76 to 70 in the 294-member House.
“Several MLAs of Congress and Left Front are in touch with us. They want to join TMC and become part of this grand development that is going on under the stewardship of Mamata Banerjee,”
TMC Vice President Mukul Roy said.
However, none of the defected MLAs had officially resigned from their posts which would have necessitated a by-poll.
The Congress and CPI(M) had alleged that TMC was blocking flow of funds to Opposition-ruled municipalities and using money and muscle power along with police administration to poach into Opposition turf and take away its legislators.
The TMC which had won 211 MLAs in the last Assembly election and now has the support of six defected MLAs, claimed that it had not invited anybody to join their fold.
“The TMC wants to wipe out every sign of Opposition from the state. It is for the first time that Congress is staring at political extinction in Bengal. We have been in opposition since 1977 but never did the CPI(M) try to poach on our MLAs or Councillors. This is a new trend that TMC has started since coming to power in 2011,” a senior Congress leader said.
Rabin Deb, state secretariat member of CPI(M), said “such things have never happened before”.
Ironically, BJP which has three MLAs and few Panchayat members in the state has remained unscathed from this trend of defection and poaching.
The Congress leader’s comment comes in the backdrop of senior TMC leader and nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee’s announcement that there will be “no sign of Congress and CPI(M)’s political existence by the end of this year”.
Echoing Congress leaders, CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said such kind of poaching of opposition MLAs and forcible taking over of municipalities was a “dangerous sign for democracy”.
Giving vent to the helplessness to keep the opposition numbers intact in the Assembly and municipality, Leader of Opposition
and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan said, “What can we do if someone wants to switch over to some other party? If someone surrenders in front of money and muscle power what can we do? To whom shall we go to lodge a complaint?”
Mannan, however, said that he has decided to move the apex court seeking an amendment to the anti-defection law as TMC was poaching on opposition MLAs and other leaders by taking advantage of the “nitty gritty of the said law”.
State Congress President Adhir Chowdhury, whose stronghold Malda and Murshidabad have borne the maximum brunt of defection, said: “The TMC cannot win these Assembly seats and municipalities, that is why they have resorted to poaching.
“I challenge them if they have the guts let them allow these MLAs to resign and win back these seats on a TMC ticket in a bypoll,” he said.
Of the seven municipalities in the district which were controlled by either Congress and CPI(M) after the 2015 municipal polls, TMC has taken over four municipalities with councillors of Left Front and Congress switching over to TMC in the last six months. The situation is same in Malda district too.
The TMC has also wrested the control of Murshidabad and Jalpaiguri Zilla Parishads from Congress and CPI(M). The TMC now controls all the 18 Zilla parishad of the state.
The only Opposition-controlled municipal corporation in the state is now Left-run Siliguri Municipal Corporation.