He made a virtue of his political necessity. Cornered in his own party and sure of being in oblivion in Opposition politics of Bengal, former PCC chief and Sabang MLA Manas Bhuniya used the ongoing bitterness with his Congress colleagues to defect to the Trinamool – the camp where his freedom and political future lie.
It is the running feud between Bhuniya and PCC chief Adhir Chowdhury and CLP Leader Abdul Mannan that led to the climax. According to Bhuniya, he had reasons for joining TMC.
One, he said he had all along opposed an alliance with CPI(M). But Chowdhury and Mannan ensured an alliance with CPI(M) before and after the Assembly polls. It was a situation that was not palatable to Bhuniya.
“The party that killed thousands of Congress workers; the party that has been rejected by the people; and the party that has no future is CPI(M). And Chowdhury has sold the Congress to the whims and caprices of Alimuddin Street. I will not accept it,” said Bhuniya.
Within the Congress, Bhuniya did not like Chowdhury’s style of operation. He believed that Chowdhury paid no attention to organisation, instead he remained an onlooker to the exodus from the Congress. “My leaving the Congress after 46 years is painful. I respect the Gandhi family. I also respect chief minister Mamata Banerjee. And let me tell you, it is her leadership that will reduce the Congress to a house of ghosts in a year or two. She is the real Congress,” said Bhuniya.
Thirdly, Manas said that on the issue of the PAC (public accounts committee) chairmanship, he has been humiliated and harassed by his party leaders. He is the senior-most MLA in the Opposition, then what was the problem of his becoming PAC chairman. The CPI(M) could have got the post next year. Instead, to appease the CPI(M), the Congress asked him to resign.
“It was illogical. Why should the PAC issue reach the high command? I expected AICC general secretary in-charge of Bengal CP Joshi to sort out the problem, but instead I was misrepresented to Rahul Gandhi. I felt pained. For 22 days, the CLP did not allow me to sit inside the room, so I sat on a sofa in the verandah. Is this how you treat a senior leader?” asked Bhuniya.
Is it the arrest warrant against him on a murder case that made him compromise and join TMC? “Rubbish. It has got nothing to do with my political decision,” he said.
Reacting to the development, Chowdhury said that TMC is using muscle, money, lure of posts and threats to make Congress workers and leaders join TMC.
“I find a similarity between the exodus from the civic bodies of Murshidabad and crossing over of Manas Bhuniya to TMC. AICC has not thrown him out, the PCC has not forced him, but greed for ministerial berth and other benefits made him leave Congress. He couldn’t take the pressure of the arrest warrant against him,” said Chowdhury.
Chowdhury said once the CPI(M) declared that they were not interested in the PAC post, the PCC did not force him to resign. The state Congress president claimed that he, Abdul Mannan and CP Joshi had heard Bhuniya out together and then told him to write a letter to AICC chairperson Sonia Gandhi that he would like to continue as PAC chairman. But he refused.
“I personally feel more than the Congress, it were personal issues that determined Manas to take this decision. If fear and greed become guiding factors in politics, it is very difficult to remain loyal to one’s party and people,” said Chowdhury.
However, on being told that a ministerial berth is what he is eyeing in this defection, Bhuniya vehemently denied it.
“There has been no such ambition. There has been no such assurance. I am following my conscience,” he said.
If Bhuniya is obstinate, Chowdhury sounded absolutely relaxed. It seems neither the PCC nor the AICC high command is bothered about losing their six-time MLA.