In a massive setback to the Congress in Meghalaya, former chief minister Mukul Sangma joined the TMC on November 24 with 11 other MLAs. With this move, the TMC became the principal opposition party in the state legislative assembly. Sangma has said joining the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC was a natural choice for him. He was named the parliamentary party leader of the TMC in Meghalaya on Friday.
He said, “I have built the Congress brick by brick in Meghalaya during hard times. I don’t need to listen to people who sit in air-conditioned rooms." In an interview to News18, Sangma said the ‘chalta hai’ attitude was damaging the grand old party. Excerpts from the interview:
Why did you leave the grand old party?
It was not an overnight exercise, having stayed in the Congress for so long. It was necessary for the larger interest of the people. We cannot dilute our commitment to the role of nation building, and that is why we have taken this step. We have built this party brick by brick; it was a difficult decision, but it was need of the hour.
Why did you choose to join the TMC?
Trinamool Congress was a natural choice. If you look from my perspective, you will appreciate it. Our decision was based on the fact that the party is an alternative with the same ideology. Look at the TMC, it’s a party formed by Mamata Banerjee who was with the Congress. Why did she leave the Congress? She had a purpose, she had conviction and commitment to serve the people of Bengal. She wanted her potential to be utilised properly.
Do you think the TMC is the “real Congress"?
It will depend on how things unfold, based on whether the Congress stays with its ‘chalta hai’ attitude and thinking that it’s doing everything right. My move should be a wake-up call for the Congress. There should be a course correction. It was asked of the party a long time ago in 2018 when five states went to polls. We were supposed to return to power in Meghalaya since we got so many seats in 2013. We lost for the first time in 2018. We needed to know why we lost, needed course correction. If you forget, how will you learn? If the same thing happens in 2023, what then? We want to do real work, we want to work towards the cause of nation building with the TMC.
What do you mean when you say the Congress has a ‘chalta hai’ attitude? Do you think the Congress has lost its ground in the northeast?
Of course, the Congress has neglected the northeast. But this is the story of the Congress in every state. Talk to leaders in Jharkhand and Bihar, they will say the same thing. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude cannot restore the glory of the grand old party. It’s a complex issue that has become inherent to this party. The way things are handled is complex. Those who handle troubleshooting for the party should know how to act. If you don’t know how to handle leaders, then that is a ‘chalta hai’ attitude. If you don’t know what the disease is, how will you prescribe a cure?
What is Prashant Kishor’s (I-PAC founder) role in the move?
He (Prashant Kishor) thinks the same way we do. He felt the grand old party can be revamped, but there should be some willingness. He shared the idea, he felt it’s not going to work. In the absence of that, the TMC became a natural choice and he told me that I should look for this platform. I realised our leader (Mamata) is dedicated, committed and true to the fight. She was also in the same parivar (Congress). Joining the TMC is like meeting lost siblings separated at birth, like in a Hindi movie.
Did you speak to Didi (Mamata Banerjee)?
I have spoken to her. We have even sent a request to build up the strength of the party here under her guidance.
It is being said that Vincent Pala (Meghalaya Congress chief) is the reason behind your move to the TMC.
They don’t know how we have built the party; he is a recipient of what we built. In the 1990s, when PA Sangma left, all the MLAs from Garo hills also left. At that point of time, I worked hard. He wanted to finish off the Congress. It was difficult to fight him, but I stayed and fought. Sonia ji knows why I stayed. All the tall leaders were knocked down. But I was there. They should know this and leaders in Delhi, sitting in their AC rooms, should know this. Many of my people died building the Congress in Meghalaya.
Can we call this Congress-mukt northeast?
It’s not my agenda, not my party. If the Congress can’t read the writing on the wall, it’s their problem. Who am I to blame them?
What future does the TMC hold in the northeast?
The TMC will stay in Meghalaya for years and decades to come. We will come to Kolkata to thank Didi for giving us this opportunity. We will all work hard to strengthen the party.