Silchar: On May 11, Abhishek Banerjee, the general secretary of the Trinamool Congress, was in Assam. During the event, Banerjee claimed the TMC would oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Assam. But for now, it seems that the Congress, not the BJP, is feeling the pressure of the TMC. Banerjee’s claims may be dismissed by the BJP for now given how strong the party is in the state, but Congress, on the other hand, can barely afford to blink. Nearly 300 km from Guwahati, the veteran party is on its last legs. In Dima Hasao district, where the Congress once claimed a MLA for over 30 years in the form of GD Langthasa, the situation is so dire that they may not have any member of repute left in the region.

On Monday, three more members resigned from the Congress unit of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) to join the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress on Wednesday. A few others could join new political outfits soon.

The three members are Dima Hasao Congress district committee general secretary Manglen Haolai, secretary Aching Zeme and district co-ordinator (social media cell) Satminthang Khongsai.

Another member, Joel Sengyung, the chairman (legal cell) of the Dima Hasao district Congress committee, has also resigned from the Congress along with Haolai, Zeme and Khongsai on May 9. However, he has not joined any political party yet.

The TMC, at least on paper, is going from strength to strength in Assam. Last year, one of Barak valley’s biggest leaders and Congress veteran Sushmita Dev joined the TMC, and earlier this year, another Congress veteran Ripun Bora too followed suit. The TMC announced on Wednesday that it has set its sights on winning 10 out of the 14 seats in Assam in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, who visited Assam for the first time, told party members that the TMC would fight with all force and ensure victory in 10 out of 14 seats in Assam. Banerjee, who also said about its plans to fight the state elections in Meghalaya and Tripura next year with all its strength, made it clear that the party’s vision is to expand its footprints outside West Bengal and make political inroads in the Northeast region.

Apart from Haolai, Zeme, Khongsai and Sengyung, Firaj Langthasa, who was the general secretary of the Dima Hasao district Congress committee, ended ties with the party on May 5 and joined the BJP at an event held in Atal Bihari Vajpayee Bhawan (BJP office), Haflong. Twenty-two other members of the Congress followed Langthasa and jumped ship to the saffron party on that day. NCHAC’s chief executive member Debolal Gorlosa, legislator Nandita Gorlosa and district BJP president Donpainon Thaosen among others were present at the programme.

Congress not following ideology, resembling a rudderless ship

Talking to EastMojo on Thursday, Aching Zeme said they (Zeme, Khongsai, Haolai and Sengyung) resigned from the Congress as the party was not following its ideology. “The Congress was always known for having a secular mindset, but now it is following the BJP’s footsteps and has developed a communal attitude. Also, the party’s role as the opposition in Assam is surprising as it does not raise its voice over various issues related to corruption,” said Zeme. The Congress is like a “rudderless ship” and has no future ahead. All these have compelled them to end ties with the party and join the TMC, Zeme added.

He claimed many more Congress members would end ties with the party soon and switch to the TMC. “The TMC is gradually expanding and it will be a force to reckon with in the days to come,” he said.

Joel Sengyung said the Congress will be “completely finished” in Dima Hasao district if it does not change its attitude soon. “The Indian National Congress’ condition is worsening day by day. The Dima Hasao district Congress committee is totally non-functional. It has been working without a full-time president for the past one year. Also, it has diverted from its ideologies,” he said while citing the reason behind his decision to resign from the party.

He said many leaders, who are associated with the Congress in Dima Hasao at present, are dissatisfied and would leave the party soon. Asked about his future political plans, Sengyung said he has not yet decided about which party he would join in the coming days.

A section of political experts said the Congress’ loss (because of its members’ resignations recently) will give ‘comfort’ the BJP, which won 19 of the 28 seats in the NCHAC’s election in 2019.

Dima Hasao district BJP president Donpainon Thaosen said the BJP is in a good position in the hills district and Firaj Langthasa’s association will strengthen the party even more. A large number of grassroots workers from the Congress are also going to join the BJP soon, Thaosen claimed. He also claimed that the BJP would emerge victorious in all the 28 seats in the NCHAC’s election in 2024.

Congress’ lone representative in the NCHAC—Daniel Langthasa—is likely to snap ties from the party and join the BJP if political observers are to be believed. Daniel is trying to ‘seal the deal’ with the BJP, but a few saffron brigade leaders are against his association with the party because of which the matter has not reached a positive conclusion yet, political observers in Haflong said. Gossips are also flowing from various circles that Daniel will join the TMC soon.

Daniel told EastMojo on Thursday that all those (gossips and claims of him joining the BJP or TMC) are not true as of now. About his presumed association with the BJP, he said discussions were held in the past over the topic and talks are still going on. The matter is in a discussion-level phase now and nothing else, Daniel said.

He said both the TMC and BJP have contacted him, but he has not yet decided about his future political associations (if there will be any). He added that he would seek the advice and suggestions from the people of Dima Hasao before making the decision of joining any new political party. “Even if I decide to join any new party, the decision will not be entirely my own. I will take the views and opinions of the masses who have voted for me and go ahead accordingly,” Daniel said.

Asked about the reason (as per his assumption) why people are ending ties with the party, he said it cannot be generalised why the members (Zeme, Khongsai, Haolai, Sengyung and Firaj Langthasa) resigned, but it seems like “everything is not well” in the party. It is unfortunate that young leaders, who could have contributed a lot for the Congress and take it to greater heights in the days ahead, are leaving the party, Daniel stated.

The NCHAC is expected to have its next election in January, 2024. Political climate in the hills district, however, is showing signs of change, with members from one party quitting and switching to other parties in the past few days. The Congress, which is apparently suffering from identity crisis, needs to rethink and rejig its plans and strategies in order to revivify itself and emerge as a strong force in the 2024 election, a Congress worker in Haflong said.

Former MLA and the spokesperson of the Dima Hasao district Congress committee Samarjit Haflongbar told EastMojo that the Congressmen (Zeme, Khongsai, Haolai, Sengyung and Firaj Langthasa) were “newcomers” and their resignation will not affect the party. “The Congress is going through a crisis period, but it will definitely bounce back strongly,” Haflongbar said.

He said the common masses of Dima Hasao district are not happy with the BJP and that the grievances of people would oust the saffron party from power in the coming days. Regarding Congress’ plans and strategies, Haflongbar said they would start a door-to-door campaign from June to restore people’s faith on the Congress. “The party had faced unfavourable times in the past too and it knows how to come back strongly,” he added.

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