The Congress today suffered a further jolt in West Bengal as three of its MLAs today joined the ruling Trinamool Congress, but a nonchalant state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said he was not at all perturbed by the development.
The three Congress MLAs who joined the TMC at the martyr's day rally here were Asit Kumar Mal of Hansan, Md Ghulam Rabbani of Goalpokher and Umapada Bauri of Para Assembly constituency. This takes the total number of Congress MLAs who switched sides to the TMC since the 2011 Assembly poll to seven, thus reducing the strength of the over century-old party in the Assembly to 35 from 42.
Apart from the three Congress legislators, Chaya Dolui, a CPI(M) MLA from Chandrakona in West Midnapore district, also joined the TMC, bringing down the party's strength from 40 to 39 in the Assembly. The joining of the three MLAs, apart from a CPI(M) legislator, which further consolidated the strength of TMC that enjoyed a two-third majority in the 294-member Assembly, was announced by TMC general secretary Mukul Roy in the presence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the rally.
Commenting on the three party MLAs switching sides, WBPCC chief Adhir Chowdhury said some leaders might desert but the workers remained with the party. "As the party president I am not perturbed. If they (the deserters) have the guts, let them win election after six months on TMC tickets. This is our challenge," he said. Congress had won 42 Assembly seats in 2011 when it contested the election in alliance with TMC, but the alliance broke in September 2012 when Mamata Banerjee had decided to withdraw support to the then UPA II government at the Centre and the Congress also withdrew its ministers from the West Bengal Cabinet.
However, striking a despondent note, former WBPCC president and senior legislator Manas Bhuniya said, "We need introspection and discussion on why they are going. It is possibly stemming from a feeling among these leaders as there is no future in Congress -- both political and personal." Claiming that the Congress had been marginalised in the state due to various reasons, he said, "In 2004, we were the B-team of CPI(M), in 2009 ( Lok Sabha elections) we were the B-team of TMC and then we fought the 2011 Assembly polls jointly with TMC."