New Delhi: Twelve out of 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya, including former chief minister and party stalwart Mukul Sangma, have joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Mamata Banerjee-led party said Wednesday.
In a late night statement, the TMC said: “12 out of 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya led by ex-CM Mukul Sangma have joined TMC. They have just formally submitted a letter to the Speaker regarding the same.”
TMC will become the principal opposition in the 60-seat Meghalaya assembly, if the defection is officially confirmed.
The Indian anti-defection law allows for two-thirds of legislators from one party in the assembly to join another, without disqualification. This means that these 12 MLAs will now be members of the Meghalaya assembly on a TMC symbol.
Sources close to Sangma, who is leading the rebel faction, said he is expected to hold a press conference in Shillong Thursday to make the announcement.
ThePrint reached the former CM for a comment via calls and texts but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
Sources in the Congress confirmed that Sangma and the other MLAs who support him have moved to merge with the TMC. The party is yet to issue an official statement.
Congress Meghalaya in-charge Manish Chatrath told ThePrint that he is on his way to Shillong to meet party functionaries to take stock of the situation. “We’ll only be in a position to comment once we know the full details,” he said.
The ruling coalition in the state, the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), is led by the National People’s Party and its leader, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. The MDA, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently holds 34 seats in the assembly.
The coalition won the October bypolls to all three seats in the state while the Congress strength in the House was reduced from 19 to 17.
Sangma’s TMC move
Reports of talks between Mukul Sangma and the TMC, steered by the party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor, were doing the rounds since September when Sangma and a few of his MLAs were spotted in Kolkata.
In October, a team from the strategist’s political consultancy firm, the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) was also sent to the state.
Sangma’s falling out with the Congress was allegedly due to the party high command’s appointment of Vincent Pala as the Meghalaya Congress chief “without consulting” him.
Amid reports of the rift and Sangma’s imminent ouster, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi met with the former CM and Pala in Delhi in early October, in what was seen as an end to the factional conflict.
Last week, Congress organisational in-charge K.C. Venugopal and Meghalaya in-charge Manish Chatrath held a review meeting with Sangma, Pala and other members of the state unit in New Delhi after the party’s massive bypoll loss.
Sangma’s induction into the TMC is a part of the party’s attempt at nationwide expansion, as it contests the assembly elections in Goa and the municipal elections in Tripura. Since its massive victory in the West Bengal elections, the TMC has poached leaders from other parties — mostly from the Congress — in states like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana.
Meghalaya goes to polls in 2023.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)