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Tripura: Six axed TMC MLAs seek recognition as BJP legislators

Three months after six axed Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLAs joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the lawmakers on Wednesday urged the Tripura Assembly Speaker to recognise them as BJP legislators.

Tripura Assembly Speaker Ramendra Chandra Debnath, however, refused to “officially” recognise them as BJP MLAs due to “lack of time before the November 13 assembly session”.

“I have received a letter signed by six MLAs requesting me to recognise them as BJP legislators in the House. I have told them that due to lack of time before the next assembly session (beginning on November 13), it is not possible to complete the formalities to officially recognise them as BJP MLAs,” Debnath told IANS.

He said the six MLAs also requested that Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl, one of the six members of the Legislative Assembly, be recognised as leader of the BJP legislator group.

“The ensuing session is likely to be two- or three-day session and it would probably be the last session of the outgoing assembly before the February (2018) assembly elections,” the Speaker added.

“Earlier on September 20, I got a letter from state BJP President Biplab Kumar Deb to recognise the six MLAs as BJP legislators in the House. In response, I wrote a letter to him asking him to submit letter by the six legislators individually or collectively, saying that they have shifted their allegiance from TMC to BJP,” the Speaker added.

Led by Sudip Roy Barman, five lawmakers — Ashish Kumar Saha, Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl, Biswa Bandhu Sen, Pranjit Singh Roy and Dilip Sarkar — accompanied by hundreds of former Trinamool Congress leaders and workers joined the BJP on August 7.

The six legislators, according to the Speaker, are still recognised as legislators of the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led TMC.

Veteran tribal leader Hrangkhawl said that after being accorded recognition by the Speaker, the BJP would be the main opposition group in the 60-member assembly.

The CPI-M-led Left Front has 51 members and the Congress only three members in the House.

“We believe that the Speaker would complete the formalities very soon,” said Hrangkhawl, former Tripura Congress President.

After the recognition of the six legislators as BJP members, the Tripura Assembly will get its first BJP members since the northeastern state got a legislative body — a 32-member Territorial Council 60 years ago in 1957.

After the princely state Tripura’s merger into the Indian Union on October 15, 1949, the ‘C’ category state under the North Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971 — along with Manipur and Meghalaya — on January 21, 1972 became a full-fledged state with a 60-member assembly.

The six TMC legislators had in June last year resigned from the Congress and joined the TMC to protest the Congress’s electoral alliance with the Left for the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections.

They, along with rebel Congress legislator Ratanlal Nath, voted for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election on July 17.

A BJP leader said Himanta Biswa Sarma, a former Congress Minister who joined the BJP before Assam elections and is now Convenor of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, facilitated the TMC legislators’ entry into the party.

“Ratanlal Nath will also join the BJP soon,” a BJP leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

The Congress has already served notice to Nath for anti-party activities and meeting BJP leaders, including party chief Amit Shah. According to party sources, he is likely to be expelled soon.

However, Nath has been evading queries about joining the BJP though he has met many of its state and central leaders in recent months.