Former Congress MP Sushmita Dev quit the party today and joined the Trinamool Congress of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, taking by surprise many in her former party who even went on Twitter to reach out to her.
The change in her Twitter bio to “Former Member” of the party was the first clue this morning that she had quit. Though her resignation letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi surfaced soon, the party officially denied her exit and even the letter.
“I tried speaking with Sushmita Dev, her phone was off She was a dedicated Congress worker and perhaps is, even today. Congress President Sonia Gandhi has not received any letter from her. She's mature enough to take her decisions, I can't comment until I speak with her,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
Ms Dev met with senior Trinamool leaders including Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee and Derek O'Brien before formally joining the party.
“Will give it all I have got…,” she tweeted, thanking Mamata Banerjee.
Listen to @sushmitadevinc share her experience after meeting our National General Secretary @abhishekaitc & the Hon'ble Chief Minister of WB @MamataOfficial along with Parliamentary Party Leader RS @derekobrienmp.— All India Trinamool Congress (@AITCofficial) August 16, 2021
She will address the Media in Delhi, tomorrow. Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/LOUPyF7Ez7
She had offered no reason in her letter to Sonia Gandhi for quitting her party of three decades, only talking about a “new chapter of public service”.
Another Congress leader, Manish Tewari tweeted: “If this is true it is most unfortunate. Why sushmitadevinc? Your erstwhile colleagues and friends especially the person who was National President of @nsui when you contested your first (Delhi University) elections back in 1991 deserve a better explanation than this laconic letter?”
Sources say she had been unhappy with the Congress leadership for some months, especially over the decision to tie up with the AIUDF in the April-May Assam election. She also had a disagreement with the state Congress leadership over the choice of poll candidates. She almost quit in March but was persuaded by the Gandhi to stay, say sources.
The daughter of Assam Congress stalwart and influential Bengali leader Santosh Mohan Dev, she was chief of the Congress's women's wing, the All India Mahila Congress.
She had earlier been an MP from Silchar in Assam, the stronghold of her father.
Her family had been in the Congress for four generations; she was the party's top leader in Assam's Barak valley region dominated by Bengalis.
She had also been at odds with her party on the CAA or Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register for Citizens (NRC), sources say. In Barak Valley, there is strong support among Hindus on CAA, which went against the party's official stand.
The recent Assam-Mizoram border clashes in regions including Barak Valley and how the Congress reacted politically to it “was the last straw”, said the sources. Ms Deb did not get the strong reaction from the Congress that she wanted.
Ms Dev was among the Congress leaders whose Twitter handle was locked over a post showing images of the parents of a nine-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and murdered in Delhi.
The images were shared by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after he met with the parents, and many tweeted it.
As Rahul Gandhi's account was blocked, several Congress leaders, including Ms Dev, changed their display picture to the Congress MP's in solidarity. The account was restored last week, after which the Congress posted “Satyameva Jayate”.