Former Forward Bloc MLA Ali Imran Ramz joined the Congress in Calcutta on Monday in the presence of the party’s state president and MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
The joining marks a reversal of the trend as the Congress has been losing young leaders to other parties like Trinamul and the BJP for the past few years.
Ramz, who is in his early forties and fondly called Victor by his followers, is a popular leader in North Dinajpur, his home district, and also known across the state for his fiery speeches in the Assembly since he was first elected in a bypoll in 2009 from Goalpokhar.
After serving two consecutive terms as an MLA from Chakulia in 2011 and 2016, he lost to Trinamul’s Minhajul Arfin Azad in the 2021 Assembly polls. “I strongly believe that the Congress will play a pivotal role in the fight against the RSS and the BJP,” said Ramz, explaining the reason behind his decision to join the Congress.
Veteran Congress leader and former MLA from Behrampore Manoj Chakraborty said Ramz’s joining, under Chowdhury’s leadership, was significant as he couldn’t recall the last time a senior leader from another party had joined the Congress.
Ramz’s induction, some sources in the Congress said, could be compared with former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s joining the party last October.
The Congress camp was happy with the induction of Ramz, whom the ruling Trinamul has been trying to coax into its fold for the past few years.
In September this year, Ramz had been ousted from Bloc for his alleged anti-party activities, following which his uncle and former state minister Hafiz Alam Sairani also resigned from the party. Following his removal from Bloc, CPM state secretary Mohammad Salim met him and there were murmurs of Ramz joining the Left bellwether.
Several other parties, including Trinamul, AAP, ISF and AIMIM, also contacted him to join their fold after his expulsion, said Ramz.
“However I believe the regional parties are just strengthening the BJP. To fight against communal and divisive forces, I have joined the Congress,” Ramz said.
“One cannot work in Trinamul with self-respect. Moreover, how can I work with the thieves? Trinamul is full of thieves and corrupt people,” he added.
Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said that Ramz’s decision to join the Congress signals some subtle changes in minority-dominated rural parts of North Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad, where the Trinamul got a lion’s share of votes in the Assembly polls.
According to him, a section of Muslim voters seems to be returning to the Congress — perceived as the only secular option to take on the BJP — though they had voted for Trinamul in the last Assembly polls.
“The turnouts in recent meetings of Adhir Chowdhury in his home district have been encouraging for the Congress and some people think that the minority community is giving some signals... These changes at the ground level may have prompted Ramz to join the Congress,” said Chakraborty.
Chakulia, Ramz”s backyard, has over 60 per cent Muslim voters, while Raiganj — the Lok Sabha segment under which Chakulia falls — has over 42 per cent Muslim votes.
The young leader, whose late father Mohammad Ramzan Ali was also an MLA, has been leading several movements -- like demand for fair compensation for land losers for Islampur Bypass and protests against corruption in distributing land pattas -- in his area over the last few years.
Congress had once been an unbeatable force in the North Dinajpur district under the leadership of late party leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. "Victor has a clean image and he is young... Inclusion of someone like him will surely make our party stronger," said Mohit Sengupta, district Congress president.
Sairani to follow: Ramz's uncle and former minister Sairani was present at the Congress office this afternoon, but he didn't join the party. "I will speak to my supporters and then take a call," said Sairani, who is likely to join the Congress in November.