The Telegraph
Tuesday , September 3 , 2013
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Tripura Cong faces split

Agartala, Sept. 2: The Tripura Congress, still smarting under the debacle in the last Assembly elections in February this year, appears to be on the verge of a vertical split.

A large number of senior party leaders, including former legislators and ministers, frustrated with the PCC headed by Sudip Roy Barman, are preparing to join the Trinamul Congress.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s trusted lieutenant, Sabyasachi Dutta, visited Agartala in the last week of August and held discussions with some Congress leaders, including Surajit Dutta and Ratan Chakraborty, who have a fairly large following. Both the leaders told Sabyasachi Dutta that they might join if they get an audience with Mamata and if the leadership structure in the state Trinamul was changed.

“I cannot disclose what all we discussed but Trinamul is ready to welcome us. We have certain conditions, which can be cleared by Mamata Banerjee herself. What is the point in hanging around in Congress now, which is totally isolated from the people,” said Surajit Dutta, five-time MLA from Ramnagar Assembly constituency in Agartala town.

Surajit Dutta had narrowly lost the seat in February by a margin of 65 votes. He said he would go to Calcutta soon to meet Mamata.

Chakraborty, a former minister whose nomination as a candidate was unceremoniously dropped after his name was announced by the AICC, did not comment but gave hints that he too would join the Trinamul provided he was honourably treated in the party’s leadership structure here.

Former minister Jawhar Saha, who was denied re-nomination from his Birganj Assembly constituency, has already held a round of discussions with senior Trinamul leaders in West Bengal.

“No one can do healthy politics here in Congress. If the Trinamul welcomes us, why should I not join? It is an established party in West Bengal, now ruling the state,” he said.

His main grouse is that despite having nursed his constituency for five years, he was denied a nomination in favour of a political greenhorn who lost the seat by a huge margin and left the area even before results were declared.

State Trinamul chairman, advocate Arun Chandra Bhowmik, refused to comment, saying the central leadership in Calcutta would take the final decision. But he dropped hints that the central party’s main aim was to secure recognition as a national party by obtaining six per cent votes in four states and more. Other party leaders like Dulal Chandra Das and state president Manik Deb have maintained silence over the issue.

Reacting nervously, the PCC convened a meeting in Town Hall here yesterday. Barman sought to rationalise the debacle in the polls in which Congress got only 10 of the 60 Assembly seats. He said those who are trying to leave Congress were making a big mistake. “Be loyal to the party and we will overcome all obstacles,” he said.

Sources held Barman and ousted leader of the Opposition, Ratanlal Nath, responsible for the woes of the Congress here. “The duo have irreparably damaged the party’s prospects. Until they are removed, the Congress in Tripura will continue to gasp for breath,” one of them said.