New Delhi: In a massive jolt to opposition Congress in Meghalaya, at least 12 of the 17 party MLAs led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma have joined Trinamool Congress (TMC), party sources have said.
Trinamool Congress's Rajya Sabha Member Sushmita Dev and a close associate of Sangma separately told IANS that the opposition leader along with 11 other Congress MLAs have joined the Trinamool Congress on late Wednesday night.
Of the 12 Congress legislators who joined the Trinamool, eight MLAs are from Garo Hills, while four lawmakers are from Khasi Jaintia hills.
The Meghalaya MLAs submitted a letter to Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh around 10 pm on Wednesday, informing him of their change of status, sources said.
The development, which makes the Trinamool Congress the principal opposition party in the state, came a day after Congress leaders Kirti Azad and Ashok Tanwar as well as Pawan Varma, formerly of Janata Dal (United), joined the Trinamool Congress in Delhi in the presence of party chief Mamata Banerjee currently visiting the national capital.
Banerjee said her party would welcome political leaders from other parties who wished to join the Trinamool Congress's battle against the BJP.
Meghalaya is the latest state where the Trinamool Congress, in expansion mode over the last couple of months, has made an inroad. In Assam, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana, its inroad has been at the cost of the Congress.
The dozen Congress MLAs who have jumped ship will address a press meet in Meghalaya's capital Shillong this afternoon.
The Trinamool Congress has been trying to expand its footprint in Tripura and Goa with an eye to the next round of assembly elections in these states. In Tripura, the party has been at loggerheads with the state's ruling BJP ahead of civic elections. In Goa, it is banking on Luizinho Faleiro, the state's former Chief Minister.
On Tuesday, Ms Banerjee's party made three key acquisitions that gave her a toehold in at least two more states - Haryana and Bihar.
Besides Team India batsman Kirti Azad, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's aide Ashok Tanwar, and Rajya Sabha MP Pawan Verma of the Janata Dal (United), who fell out with his boss Nitish Kumar, also joined Ms Banerjee's party.
The earlier Congress entrants in the party included late President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee; Sushmita Dev, the former Congress MP from Silchar and daughter of late Congress stalwart Santosh Mohan Dev.