Kolkata, Sep 19: The Congress suffered a big jolt in West Bengal, as its former state chief Manas Bhunia and a host of other frontline party leaders including provincial office-bearers crossed over to the ruling Trinamool Congress on Monday.
Sitting legislator Bhunia, who served as a senior minister in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's cabinet for 16 months since May 2011, when the Congress and Trinamool were allies, accused three of his former party leaders of standing as a "barrier" between him and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
"I used to communicate with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi four times every month. But (Congress general secretary in charge of Bengal) C.P. Joshi, and two other leaders stood as a rock between me and the Gandhi," Bhunia said, in an apparent reference to state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury and Leader of the Opposition Abdul Mannan.
Alongside Bhunia, another veteran Congress leader and its legislature party leader in the previous assembly Mohammad Sohrab also switched allegiance to the Trinamool.
State Congress Vice President Asit Majumdar, four general secretaries and six provincial secretaries as also a number of leaders of its students, youth, minority and trade union wings also deserted the party to pitch their lot with the Trinamool.
Welcoming the leaders, Trinamool Secretary General Partha Chatterjee and Youth Trinamool chief Avishek Banerjee, who is Banerjee's nephew, handed over the party flags to them.