WITH OPPOSITION unity in mind ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress high command is learnt to have instructed its Bengal unit to “go easy on its criticism on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee” and avoid “personal attacks”. At the same time, the party has made it clear that “opposition politics” at the level of governance in the state “need not stop”, said sources.
In July, Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chouwdhury had ruled out the possibility of joining hands with the Trinamool Congress. But with Mamata and the Congress high command’s growing proximity and the future of a Left-Congress alliance in Bengal looking bleak, a source said: “There are concerns. But ahead of 2019, the Bengal unit has been asked to go easy on criticising Mamata Banerjee. Opposition politics on issues such as governance, law and order situation and industry can continue. But not personal attacks.”
Sources added that in a recent meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Chowudhury had communicated his concerns over such an alliance.
“The concern is that if such an alliance is formed, then the Congress needs to ensure that there is a movement building up to it that will allow the party to have enough bargaining power,” the source said.
On October 12, the source said, Chowdhury is likely begin a “movement”, which will focus on the lack of industry in the state. The campaign will begin from Barrackpore and Howrah, the suburbs of Kolkata that were once the epicentre of industrialisation in the state, and then move on to Jangalmahal.
Chowdhury’s campaign also becomes important with the party’s central election authority opening up the process of state units nominating new presidents to the high command.
Sources said that while Chowdhury’s name is in fray, so is the name of Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Bhattacharya, who was reportedly “softer” on the issue of going for an alliance with Trinamool.
Meanwhile, sources close to the CM said she was in constant touch with the Congress high command, with Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Nabi Azad serving as the prime point of contact. “Congress in Bengal has to operate in this situation. While there are those in Delhi and Kolkata who would want an alliance with the Trinamool for the larger purpose of an alliance against Narendra Modi, the larger concern is what will it cost the Bengal unit,” said a leader close to Chowdhury.