Congress may stake claim as principal Opposition in Assembly

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Cutting ties: State Congress President Pradip Bhattacharya addressing the
media on Friday. — Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
Business Line Cutting ties: State Congress President Pradip Bhattacharya addressing the media on Friday. — Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

The end of the coalition between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress will have its impact on the State Assembly. The State Congress has decided to quit the Bengal Cabinet on Saturday and claim stake as the principal Opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Though the Congress is the second largest party after Trinamool in the Legislative Assembly, it is still unclear whether the Speaker will accept the Congress’ claim to replace the CPI (M)-led Left Front as Opposition.

While the split will not have any impact on the Government as Trinamool has a clear majority, the end of the coalition may bring down at least one important municipal body at Siliguri in North Bengal. Trinamool does not have a clear majority in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. Trinamool has 184 seats in the 294-member Bengal Assembly.

However, political observers point out to a possible change in equations regarding the Leader of Opposition at the Assembly.

The Congress has 42 MLAs while the CPI (M) has 39 MLAs. At present, the Leader of Opposition post is held by Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPI (M).

Rules state that the ‘second single largest party’ at the Assembly will stake claim to the post of Leader of Opposition.

Sources in the CPI (M), pointed out that the role of the leader of the Opposition should go to the CPI (M)-led Left Front that has a combined strength of 61 at the Assembly.

The decision to quit the Cabinet in Bengal marks the end of the three-year-old electoral alliance between the Congress and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. The alliance was crucial in ousting the Left Front from power during the 2011 Assembly elections. Congress ministers in West Bengal will submit their resignations on Saturday to the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Congress has six ministers of which two – Manas Bhuniya and Abu Hena – are of Cabinet rank. Four others are Ministers of state.

“The West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee has decided to withdraw its members from the Council of Ministers in West Bengal,” State Congress President Pradip Bhattacharya said. A letter of withdrawal of support will also be handed over to the Governor, M.K. Narayanan.

According to Bhattacharya, the Congress was “relieved” after taking the decision to split from the Trinamool-led alliance. He further maintained that it was time for the party to tell people what was actually happening in the State.

(This article was published on September 21, 2012)
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