Kolkata: When former West Bengal Congress president Manas Bhuniya switched to chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress party, he called it the only “real Congress” in the state. Bhuniya was risking his assembly seat with the defection, but, perhaps, it was worth the risk.
In his constituency, Sabang, some of Bhuniya’s followers have already moved to the Trinamool Congress. According to a close aide, it would not be difficult for Bhuniya to get re-elected from his constituency if he must step down as a legislator for moving to another political party.
On Monday, Bhuniya left the Congress, now the dominant opposition party in West Bengal, after months of bickering over his selection as chairman of the state legislative assembly’s public accounts committee (PAC). Even as the Congress and the Left alliance urged him not to take the post, Bhuniya refused to give it up. The post is normally offered to a key opposition leader and Bhuniya’s decision to accept it drove a wedge between him and the Congress.
Around the same time, Bhuniya faced charges that he was involved in the killing of a Trinamool Congress worker in his constituency in West Midnapore district, and an arrest warrant was issued for him.
Bhuniya dismissed the murder charge as trumped up and said it had something to do with his defiance of the Congress’s diktat over PAC.
Bhuniya was first elected to the state legislative assembly in 1982, and remained a lawmaker until 1996. He was elected again in 2001, after which he has been elected three times.
When the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance ended 34 years of Left Front rule in 2011, Bhuniya became a cabinet minister. He quit the government when the Congress chose to end the alliance, moving to the opposition bench.
Almost the entire Congress leadership in West Bengal has moved over to the Trinamool, except two leaders, education minister Partha Chattopadhyay said.
Adhir Choudhury, president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress, has downplayed the significance of Bhuniya’s defection, though the Trinamool Congress appears to be gaining ground even in traditional Congress bastions such as Malda and Behrampur.