The Opposition Congress received a boost in poll-bound Tripura on Thursday with veteran tribal leader Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl returning to his old party within a day of quitting as MLA of the ruling BJP. However, the day also saw the Congress formally lose another suspended MLA, Kimfa Sydney Marbaniang, to the ruling National People’s Party (NPP), which leads the coalition government in poll-bound Meghalaya. Hrangkhawl, 66, was inducted into the party after a massive rally taken out by the Congress in the state capital Agartala amid heavy security. The rally crossed the procession taken out by the BJP to the Raj Bhavan in protest against alleged corruption in the Tipra Motha-ruled Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. Members of both parties shouted slogans against each other but there was no untoward incident, sources said. Four-time tribal MLA H r a n g k h aw l , wh o h a d contested and won on a BJP ticket from the Karamcharra constituency in 2018, did not say anything at the joining meeting but senior state Congress leader Sudip Roy Barman appealed to the people to oust the BJP and give his party a “chance to form the new government to serve them”. He also released a “chargesheet” against the ruling BJP, shortlisting at least 25 “unfulfilled pre-poll promises” and urging party members to flag these in the run-up to the polls early next year. AICC general secretary in charge Ajay Kumar, while accusing the BJP of indulging in divisive politics, told a section of the media that like-minded people will come together before the polls and that the party was ready to “make any sacrifice, big or small, for the people of Tripura”. His statement reflected the Congress’ keenness on pre-poll alliance with both the CPM as well as the Tipra Motha, a regional party that has made rapid strides in the past year, a party insider said. Hrangkhawl was the fifth MLA to quit the BJP since 2021, and the third to join the Congress this year, the others being Sudip Roy Barman and Ashish Kumar Saha. Along with the veteran tribal leader, the brother (Rajkumar Sarkar) of a deceased BJP MLA (Dilip Sarkar) and Rakesh Das, a TMC student leader, also joined the party. Former BJP MLA Ashis Das, the first to quit the party to join the Trinamul, was also supposed to be inducted into the party but he did not turn up, sources said. Das has already quit the TMC. Tripura PCC general secretary Prasanta Bhattacharjee told The Telegraph that Thursday’s developments should silence those writing off the Congress.
“The rally was the biggest ever since 2018. So many people have joined our party and will be joining. The party is working on the ground. We are confident of ousting the BJP,” Bhattacharjee said, referring to the “exodus” of MLAs (eight) from the ruling BJP-IPFT ruling alliance that had ended the Left Front’s 25-yearlong reign in 2018.
Congress had drawn a blank in the 2018 polls, and ground reports suggest it will take some doing to dislodge the BJP if the Opposition remains fractured.
The Congress, however, suffered a setback in Meghalaya with the departure of first-time MLA Kimfa Sydney Marbaniang to the NPP.
He was welcomed to the NPP by NPP chief and Meghalaya chief minister, Conrad K. Sangma and deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong.
The Congress had suspended five of its MLAs for supporting the NPP-led coalition government in which the BJP is a constituent.
Last week, two other suspended MLAs — Ampareen Lyngdoh and Mohendro Rapsang — joined the NPP.
The two remaining suspended MLAs are also expected to resign anytime. Marbaniang resigned from his Assembly membership on Wednesday