The Congress Monday appointed three-time MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, party’s strongman from Murshidabad and a known detractor of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, as the West Bengal Pradesh Congress president making its intentions clear that it will not have any truck with its estranged ally Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha election.
Chowdhury, also the Union minister of state for Railways, has been given the command of the state Congress when it is at its weakest and has been hit by at least six of its MLAs and a number of ward councillors defecting to the ruling Trinamool Congress. Chowdhury replaces Pradeep Bhattacharya, who was the acting WBPCC chief, who, sources said, has been removed following the party’s dismal performance in the recent panchayat elections and the series of defections.
The appointment also signals party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to make Congress battle-ready ahead of Lok Sabha polls.
“The party is hoping for a turnaround and that is why decided to replace Bhattacharya with a younger and more aggressive Chowdhury,” a senior leader said.
However, Chowdhury, knows that a lot is expected from him. Soon after he was appointed the PCC chief, the Berhampore MP said, he is no magician. “I don’t have any magic wand. But, Rahul Gandhi and (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi have reposed faith in me and I will try to deliver to the best of my capabilities,” said Chowdhury.
Asked about his plan of action, he said, “I have been handed over the responsibilities with very little time. I cannot act according to my whims and fancies. I will chalk out a plan of action in consultation with other leaders.”
The senior party leaders termed appointment of Chowdhury as PCC chief “a sensible move” that it would give the party a “positive fillip” in the state. Veteran leader Somen Mitra, who recently returned to Congress after resigning from the Trinamool, said, “By bringing in Chowdhury, the Congress has sent out a message that it wants the party to be more aggressive in Bengal. Also with this, the speculations over any future alliance with TMC has been cleared. Congress will contest all the seats alone.”
Senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan added: “The move will enthuse party workers.”
Contacted, senior party leader Manas Bhuniya said, Chowdhury has been nominated by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. “The AICC is confident that Adhir can deliver the goods. Murshidabad has been an important district in Congress and this time too, it will help anchor the party,” Bhuniya said.
Meanwhile, Pradeep Bhattacharya, brushed aside talks of him not being informed about the move. “It is not true that I had no knowledge of the move. I had told senior AICC leaders that if they deemed fit, they could replace me with anyone they thought would be better and the person would get my full cooperation,” Bhattacharya said.