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Cong MLA to switch a day before shuffle

Calcutta, Nov. 13: Humayun Kabir, the Congress MLA from Rejinagar in Murshidabad, today announced that he would join the Trinamul Congress on November 20, a day after he claimed he had been “promised” a ministry berth by Mamata Banerjee.

If Kabir, who has strained relations with Adhir Chowdhury, sticks to his decision, he will be the first Congress MLA to defect to Trinamul since Mamata assumed office as chief minister in May 2011. The Congress has 42 MLAs in the 294-member House.

“I will formally join Trinamul on November 20 after quitting all posts in the state Congress,” Kabir said this afternoon over phone from his Rejinagar home.

Asked why he had selected the particular date, Kabir said: “During my meeting with Mamatadi yesterday, she told me to inform her of my decision by November 16. She told me that the cabinet shuffle would be done on November 21. I want to join Trinamul a day before the shuffle.”

In August, dissident Congress leader Hamidul Islam, who had won the Chopra Assembly seat in North Dinajpur as an Independent, had joined Trinamul.

Kabir said he would resign as Congress MLA to contest a fresh election on a Trinamul ticket from Rejinagar.

“I won the Rejinagar seat by a margin of 8,886 votes even though a section of district Congress leaders did not cooperate with me. I am confident of retaining the seat on a Trinamul ticket because of Mamatadi’s popularity,” he said.

Kabir, a first-time MLA, said he would quit the Pradesh Congress Committee. “I will also resign as Murshidabad Congress secretary on November 16.”

He said he conveyed his decision to junior railway minister and district Congress chief Adhir when the latter called him up yesterday.

“Adhirda requested me not to leave the Congress and promised to sort out my problems. But I told him it was not possible for me to remain in the party because of my strained relations with him,” he said.

Kabir had said Adhir “threw” him out of his construction business earlier this year.

The MLA also hit out at a section of Murshidabad Congress leaders for “sidelining” him.

“They are opposed to me. So it is better to join Trinamul than be neglected in the Congress.”

State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya condemned the way Trinamul weaned Kabir away.

“This has made it clear that Trinamul’s sole agenda is to break the Congress in Bengal. But take this from me — the Congress will prove its organisational strength in Murshidabad by winning the Rejinagar seat if there is a bypoll,” he said. “The Mamata magic won’t work in Murshidabad.”

A Trinamul general secretary said Kabir would be “given a warm welcome”.

“To wean away a Congress MLA from Adhir Chowdhury’s bastion is a great achievement for us. Kabir’s induction into our party will help us consolidate our fragile organisational base in Murshidabad. The Congress has 14 MLAs from the district while we have only one,” he said.

The Trinamul leader said the party had “already made inroads” into two north Bengal districts with a strong Congress base — Malda and North Dinajpur.

He claimed the Congress MLA from Malda’s Englishbazar, Krishnendu Chowdhury, would also join Trinamul by next week.