One showed his injured leg, another cited old age and ill health while yet another was in favour of his wife — apparently excuses to avoid fighting the Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress vice-president is learnt have told the West Bengal Congress pointblank that they cannot shy away from contesting the elections.
The 11 leaders, who included all six sitting MPs, state unit president Adhir Chowdhury, former PCC presidents Somen Mitra and Manas Bhuina, Congress Legislature Party leader Md Sohrab etc, had met Rahul at the party office in Delhi on March 3.
Only Somen Mitra, who has won the Kolkata North primary and has been declared a candidate from the seat, said he wasn’t scared of jumping into the poll fray.
Others tried their best to wriggle out.
While Abdul Mannan said he had badly injured his leg while claiming he has not enough money either to fight the elections, former PCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya said he was too frail.
Manas Bhuniya, another former PCC president, said his wife Gita Bhuniya, also an AICC member, could be made a candidate. Rahul refused all of them.
Bhuniya Wednesday addressed a press conference on the Assembly premises to announce he was ready to contest the elections. “A sustained calumny is being spread against me that I am not ready to contest the elections. But I am a committed soldier of the party and have a track record of 40 years in politics. I will plunge in the arena whenever I am told to so,’’ Bhuniya said.
According to sources, the AICC is going to field Bhuniya, an MLA of four times, from Midnapore.
The veteran leader, who is a doctor by profession, has never contested a Lok Sabha election. In 1984, then Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee had offered him a Lok Sabha seat, which he had declined.
When contacted, Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharya said they were ready to jump into the fray. “My legs are really in a bad shape, so is my financial condition. But what to do. I will have to abide by the party decision,’’ Mannan said, who is likely to be fielded from Sreerampore seat of Hooghly district.
Pradip Bhattacharya, Chowdhury’s predecessor, who is going to be fielded either from Asansol or Durgapur, said he had no option. “How could I disobey Rahul Gandhi?’’ Bhattacharya told The Indian Express.
PCC president Adhir Chowdhury, who represents Berhampore, has so far given a list of 17 candidates and he says he will submit the list of the remaining 25 candidates to AICC very soon.
“Of course we cannot push any unwilling horse on the race track. But we will accommodate all those who are keen to fight. I am sure the leaders will muster strength and the wherewithal at their disposal to fight the elections,’’ Chowdhury said.