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Hit by defections, West Bengal Congress at risk of losing opposition party status

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-06-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: Two legislators of the Indian National Congress in West Bengal have decided to defect to the Trinamool Congress, reducing the strength of the party in the 294-member assembly to 36, just six above the minimum required to be recognized as an opposition party.

Since last year’s elections, the Congress has been hit by defections and seen its strength fall from 44 to 36. It could go down further, said Trinamool Congress MP (member of Parliament) and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee.

“Watch out for bigger defections in future,” Banerjee said on Wednesday, claiming that the Trinamool Congress’s strength on the floor of the state assembly had risen from 211 to 221 with the latest defections.

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Congress legislators alleged that those switching camps are flouting anti-defection laws.

The Left parties together have only 30 legislators. Of this, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, has 26 lawmakers and doesn’t qualify as an opposition party.

Congress lawmaker Manoj Chakraborty said his party would not lose recognition.

The controversy over defections came to a head last year when Congress legislator Manas Bhunia was appointed chairman of the public accounts committee amid opposition from his own party.

Bhunia, along with few other legislators, claimed to have switched allegiance to the Trinamool Congress, while defying his party’s diktat that the post go to Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPM.

When the Congress appealed to the speaker seeking Bhunia’s disqualification under anti-defection laws, he claimed he hadn’t quit the Congress yet. The same is true for all the Congress legislators who have publicly announced that they were joining the Trinamool Congress, Chakraborty added.

It is clear from the situation in West Bengal that the anti-defection law needs to be further amended and strengthened, said Biswanath Chakraborty, an election analyst and a professor of social sciences at the Rabindra Bharati University.

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