'Congress Mukt Bharat': how the TMC is helping fulfil BJP's dream in Bengal
The ruling party on Monday inducted former chief of the Congress in Bengal Manas Bhunia, along with 13 other leaders, including former legislative party leader Mohammed Sohrab.
Next target: capturing all Congress-dominated municipalities before the civic polls in 2017.
Manas followed his brother Bikash Bhunia, until recently a top Congress leader in Midnapore, into the TMC. Manas had indicated last week that he might quit the Congress after his two-month tussle with the party's state and national leaderships for the post of Public Affairs Committee chairperson.
Now that the Bhunias are in their camp, senior TMC are eying to wrest the Kandi municipality from the Congress in 2017.
On Sunday, the ruling party took control of the Behrampore municipality from the Congress by poaching 15 councillors of the opposition party. The municipality was considered the fiefdom of Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who also served as the chief advisor to the civic body.
The Congress had won 26 of the 28 seats in the municipality in the last election, while the TMC had bagged one. The other seat had gone to an independent.
The TMC had already taken over three municipalities in Murshidabad - Beldanga, Jangipur, Azimgunj-Ziagunj - as well as the Zilla Parishad by poaching councillors from the Congress and the CPM.
Talking about this "success", the TMC's Abhisekh Banerjee, who is Mamata's nephew, said, "Soon, there won't be any sign of the Congress and the CPM in Murshidabad. We will capture other municipalities too."
The loss of the Behrampore municipality has given ammunition to Adhir Chowdhury's detractors within the Congress. Already, four party general secretaries - Ajoy Ghosh, Kanak Debnath, Khaled Ebadullah and Manoj Pandey - have written to the central leadership demanding his removal as president.
A senior Congress leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it had become "difficult for the party to survive in Bengal with the Trinamool poaching our leaders and the high command not taking any initiative to stop it."
"We have spoken several times with the high command about the crisis in the Bengal Congress, especially due to internal feuds, but they are yet to take any positive step in this regard."
This was echoed by Manas, who accused his former leadership of "ruining" the Congress in Bengal. "Today I have joined the real Congress - Trinamool. The Congress with which I was associated for 46 years is completely ruined because of CP Joshi, Adhir Chowdhury and Abdul Mannan. From today, I am a loyal soldier of the Trinamool and will abide by the orders and decisions of Mamata Banerjee," Manas told reporters on Monday. He had been a minister in Mamata's government in 2011 when the Congress was a partner in it.
Observers have described the Congress' current travails as the worst crisis faced by the party in recent years in Bengal. They have argued that if the internal feud is not dealt with soon, the crisis could worsen beyond any chance of repair.
Political analyst Prof Amol Mukherjee said, "The feud within the party needs to be tackled and the poaching by TMC needs to be stopped."