GUWAHATI: Five of Left-ruled Tripura’s six Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLAs, with whom the party has “severed ties”, are likely to join the BJP later this month.
They had ruffled the feathers of party leadership by refusing to toe the party lines vis-à-vis the Presidential elections. They had earlier made it clear that they would not back anyone who was being supported by the Left parties.
“The Left is in power in Tripura. How can we lend our support to someone who is being backed by the Left parties? And who said we are supporting NDA (National Democratic Alliance) nominee Ram Nath Kovind? We may also abstain from voting,” TMC MLA Sudip Roy Barman told The New Indian Express.
“Following our decision, we were told (by the party leadership) that our relationship with the party has been severed. We have neither been suspended nor expelled,” he clarified. He asserted that the five of them had no plans, as of now, to switch their loyalty to the BJP. The sixth TMC MLA, Dilip Sarkar, was not available for comment. It was not known if he endorsed the stance taken by his party colleagues. All six of them had defected to the TMC from the Congress last year.
Speculation is rife that not just the five rebel TMC MLAs, even Congress MLA Ratan Lal Nath might also defect to the BJP. He had openly supported a number of decisions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent times. It was due to such behaviour that the Congress in the state had been demanding action against him for long. Sources in the BJP said that Nath, besides the five TMC rebels, might join the saffron party within this month.
“Nath will join the BJP only if disciplinary action is taken against him. As for the five TMC MLAs, it is more or less certain that they will defect to the BJP either by July 22 or 28,” the sources claimed. Recently, the non-Congress North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also a minister in Assam, had made an appeal to the opposition MLAs in Tripura to vote in favour of Kovind. In the 60-member Tripura House, the Left Front accounts for 51 MLAs, followed by the TM (six) and the Congress (three).
After its winning feat in Assam and Manipur, the BJP has set its sights on Tripura where Assembly elections will be held early next year. There is a strong possibility that it will align with smaller parties. The BJP in Tripura has grown at the expense of the Congress. The Left, which has been in power since 1993, feels that the BJP has virtually taken over the Congress’s space. “In terms of mobilisation, the BJP is next to us. Congress is eroding,” CPM state general secretary Bijan Dhar said.
“People have got an alternative in the BJP. We are fighting for all sections of the society, including government employees and the tribals. They have already started lending their support to us,” BJP spokesman, Mrinal Kanti Deb, said. The tribals hold sway over 30 seats. No wonders that the BJP is trying to warm up to them. However, there is a perception that the BJP would not be able to unseat the Left unless its unity is breached.