Sushmita Dev, former Lok Sabha member from Assam and president of the All-India Mahila Congress, joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday in the presence of the party’s national general secretary, Abhishek Banerjee, and leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien.
She also met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the State Secretariat ‘Nabanna Building’.
“Will give it all I have got..@MamataOfficial thank you # Khela Hobe,” Ms. Dev replied to a tweet from the TMC’s official handle that welcomed her into the Trinamool family.
Eyes wides shut: Sibal
With yet another high profile exit, the spotlight is back on the leadership issue within the Congress. Kapil Sibal, one of Congress’s group of 23 dissenters (G-23), tweeted that the “oldies” are blamed for trying to “strengthen” the Congress while the party continues to “move with eyes wide shut”.
Lok Sabha member Karti Chidambaram said the party needed to reflect why people were leaving and there was “no point in being blasé about it”.
Once considered a close aide of former party chief Rahul Gandhi, Ms. Dev’s exit may have implications for Opposition unity. A section of Congress leaders have often accused the Trinamool of “poaching” their leaders in Bengal and the high profile exit comes barely four days before Congress president Sonia Gandhi virtually interacts with Ms. Banerjee, along with other top Opposition leaders, on the issue of Opposition unity.
The latest development can also be interpreted as Ms Banerjee's growing ambition to be the face of the Opposition, something that loyalists of the Gandhi family don't appreciate.
The first indications of Ms. Dev’s exit came in the form of a change in her bio on her twitter handle where she called herself a “former member of the Indian National Congress”. Then her letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, dated August 15, surfaced on social media. In the letter, she expressed her desire to start a new chapter in public service and said she cherished her three decades-long association with the Congress.
Press meet likely today
Ms. Dev didn’t mention a reason, but her comments after meeting the West Bengal Chief Minister may hold a clue. “It was an excellent discussion and clearly, she [Mamata Banerjee] has excellent future vision for the party and I hope to be helpful in that regard,” said Ms. Dev, after joining the ranks of leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada who left the Congress for better political prospects. Mr. Scindia and Mr. Prasada both joined the BJP.
Ms. Dev will hold a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday, but she is said to have been upset with some recent appointments in Assam Congress and felt marginalised. Earlier too, during the Assembly elections in the State, she had spoken about her supporters being ignored during ticket distribution as well as seat allocation to Congress’s ally, All-India United Democratic Front, in the Barak Valley.
Stunned by the development, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala first claimed that Ms. Dev’s letter had not reached Ms. Gandhi, and then wished his former colleague the “very best” for her future.