In a huge setback to the Congress in Meghalaya, 12 of the 17 party MLAs joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday, top sources in the TMC said. The 12 MLAs also include former Meghalaya CM Dr Mukul Sangma. A formal announcement will be made on Thursday.
Sangma, however, remained tight-lipped on the matter. Speaking to CNN-News18, Sangma said, “Cannot say much about this. We will brief the media at 1 pm tomorrow. Few other MLAs will also be present."
An inside source from the Congress said that Sangma along with 11 other party MLAs submitted their resignation letter to Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh on Wednesday evening. “We have quit Congress and have joined TMC, we are having a press conference tomorrow at 1.30 pm to announce this,” said a close aide of Sangma.
Among those who jumped the ship are all the eight MLAs from Garo Hills and four from Khasi Jaintia hills. Sangma hails from Garo Hills.
Sangma, the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, was reportedly unhappy with the Congress’s top leadership. Reports suggested that Sangma felt cornered within the party.
With this, despite not winning a single seat in the 2018 state elections, the TMC became the principal opposition party in the assembly. The Congress, which so far had 17 MLAs, is now reduced to only five.
News18 had earlier reported that Sangma had visited Kolkata and met top TMC leaders during his stay. He is also close to political strategist Prashant Kishor and sources said they both also held a meeting in the city.
While the former senior Congress leader had initially stated that he is not quitting the Congress, sources said that his differences with the party had increased manifold.
Reacting to the development, Dr M Chuba Au, BJP in-charge of Meghalaya, told CNN-News18 that this isn’t surprising. “Congress is a party with no leaders. Naturally, it is like a rudderless ship and therefore, its party leaders want to go somewhere where they can get some sort of security. Cannot really blame the MLAs for jumping ship to another party," he said.
A TMC leader and minister in the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal had earlier told News18 that the party is trying to get Sangma in their fold to help the TMC expand its base in the Northeast. “We are trying to get Dr Mukul Sangma as this will help us flourish our party in Northeast since he is the tallest leader of Congress there but he is very reluctant. He met our representative but nothing materialized since he wanted to have a regional party where he can unify the three tribes of Meghalaya," the minister had said.
(With inputs from Purbasha Bhattacharyya and Aparna Bose)