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Rival MLAs switch over

Calcutta, July 21: A CPM MLA and three Congress legislators today joined Trinamul, prompting Adhir Chowdhury to describe the defections “for personal gain” and Biman Bose to allege “threat”.

According to sources, the Congress’s Asit Mal from Birbhum’s Hasan, Umapada Bauri from Para in Purulia and Ghulam Rabbani from North Dinajpur’s Goalpokhar were “hobnobbing with Trinamul” for the past few weeks because of differences with colleagues in the Congress.

The CPM alleged that Chandrakona MLA Chhaya Dolui had been “under threat” from the ruling establishment.

“The Chandrakona MLA had been under threat. She is a teacher but could not attend school because of the ruling party’s intimidation. She had no option,” CPM state secretary Bose said.

Congress insiders said Mal, a five-time MLA who was the chief whip of the Congress Legislature Party, resigned because of strained ties with Jangipur Congress legislator Abhijit Mukherjee. Rabbani’s relation with former Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi had apparently soured of late.

Asked about Bauri, a Congress general secretary said the former Para MLA felt he “has been sidelined in the organisation”.

“Rabbani left the organisation presuming that Deepa might not approve of his re-nomination for the Goalpokhar Assembly seat. Mal was disgruntled ever since his removal as Birbhum Congress president in 2012 at Abhijit’s behest,” the Congress leader said.

With the defections today, the strength of the Congress in the 294-member Assembly has come down to 34, eight short of 42 it had bagged in the 2011 Assembly elections.

The CPM now has 37 MLAs in the Assembly.

Bengal Congress president Chowdhury, who had promised to keep the “flock together” after taking over the reins from Pradip Bhattacharya in February, said: “If two or three MLAs leave the organisation for their personal gain, I can’t stop them.”

Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said more Congress leaders would join the ruling party.

“More people from the Congress and other political parties would join us ahead of the polls to 17 civic bodies.”