November 20, 2017   
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Agartala, Nov 2  Six Tripura legislators who joined the BJP after quitting the Trinamool Congress three months ago are yet to get recognition in the state assembly as BJP lawmakers though the assembly begins its last session before the polls on November 13.

The Left-ruled Tripura goes to polls in February next year. The five-year term of the assembly will end on March 14. A brief last session will begin on November 13.

“The six legislators who joined the BJP on August 7 are yet to formally seek recognition as BJP MLAs. Now the scope to recognise them as BJP legislators is very limited as there is lack of time to do the necessary formalities for that,” Tripura Assembly Speaker Ramendra Chandra Debnath told IANS.

According to the Speaker, Tripura BJP President Biplab Kumar Deb wrote to him on September 20 requesting that the six legislators be recognised as BJP members.

“In response, I wrote to him asking that the six legislators submit letters individually or collectively saying they have shifted allegiance from TMC to BJP,” said Debnath.

“After getting the letters from the six MLAs I will have to call them for a meeting and start the necessary procedure in this regard,” the Speaker explained.

Deb had requested the Speaker to recognise Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl, one of the six members and a veteran tribal leader, as leader of the BJP group.

Led by Sudip Roy Barman, five lawmakers — Ashish Kumar Saha, Biswa Bandhu Sen, Pranjit Singh Roy, Dilip Sarkar and Hrangkhawl — 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 Trinamool Congress.

Political analyst Tapas Dey said the dispute in the BJP is over the leadership of the legislators group, which has led to the delay in recognition of the six.

“BJP President Biplab Kumar Deb and the party’s observer Sunil Deodhar are not in favour of Sudip Roy Barman as leader of the BJP legislator’s group. They want to project Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl as BJP’s tribal face by making him the leader,” Dey told IANS.

Ashish Kumar Saha, one of the six legislators who was formerly Tripura TMC president, said that Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who is on a two-day visit to the state would meet them to settle the issue.

Sarma, who is convener of the BJP-led anti-Congress alliance, North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), has been playing a crucial role to boost the party ahead of the assembly elections.

Veteran tribal leader Hrangkhawl, a former President of the state Congress, said after the Speaker accords him recognition, the BJP would be the main opposition group in the 60-member Assembly.

“We believe that the Speaker would complete the formalities very soon,” Hrangkhawl, former leader of the TMC legislator group, told IANS.

In the 60-member Assembly, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front has 51 members and the Congress only three.

After recognition of the six as BJP members, the Tripura Assembly will get its first saffron party members.

After the princely-ruled Tripura merged with 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’ electoral alliance with the Left for the 2016 West Bengal elections.

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

Himanta Biswa Sarma, also a former Congress Minister who joined the BJP before the Assam elections, facilitated the TMC legislators’ entry into the party.

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

The Congress has already served notice on Nath for anti-party activities. According to 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.