The Congress in West Bengal is miffed with the party high command for not giving importance to their views. The Bengal unit is also of the opinion that the recent bonhomie between the Congress leadership and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee will put the party’s political existence at stake in the state, which has been bleeding hard due to repeated poll setbacks and defections to the TMC.
The meeting between Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Banerjee in New Delhi on May 16 to discuss a strategy for the upcoming presidential polls, has irked the state Congress leadership, which feels any kind of bonhomie with TMC is fatal for the state unit as it is fighting hard to keep its flock together from the “poaching policy” of the TMC. The Bengal unit of the Congress also feels that BJP will milk the issue and eat into Congress votes in the state.
“Although the meeting was regarding the presidential elections, yet it is a matter of concern as party workers and leaders are asking several questions and we don’t have any proper answer. At a time when the TMC is trying to finish off Congress in the state either by use of violence or poaching on our elected representatives, a meeting with our top leadership with the TMC is sending out a wrong message,” former Congress MP and senior leader Deepa Dasmunsi told PTI.
“It is tough to convince party workers who were beaten up by TMC goons on the local bodies polling day, that there has been no compromise,” she said. State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury had shot off a letter to Sonia Gandhi on May 13 urging her not to allow any equation of national politics hamper the prospects of the party in the state. Chowdhury felt the Congress workers were “miffed” and “it was destiny of the Bengal Congress to suffer due to equations of national politics”.
“Yes, there are lots of apprehensions and questions among the grassroots workers, who despite all sorts of threat and intimidation by TMC, has been carrying the party flag. We are trying to answer those queries, but we are not sure whether we can convince them. Congress in Bengal has been suffering for a long time due to equations of national politics,” Chowdhury told PTI. “In 2004, Congress vote bank got eroded and TMC benefitted when it was decided that we will take the Left’s support to form a government at the Centre. Now, due to this (meeting), BJP is trying to squeeze benefit,” he said.
Chowdhury, however, underlined that the party high command has not asked the state unit to back out from protesting against the ruling TMC. AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed rubbished the apprehensions and said “no one should equate the considerations and equations of national politics with state politics. We are trying to get BJD from Odisha with us in this presidential polls. The party workers in Odisha are not raising such questions.”
Ahmed is confident that the state Congress unit is “intelligent enough to understand the complications and equations of fighting a communal force like BJP.” Since the Assembly elections in May 2016, the tally of Congress MLAs in the Assembly has come down to 39 from 44 as five MLAs switched over to TMC. The Congress also lost two of its Zilla Parishads – Malda and Murshidabad to TMC.
A senior state Congress leader and MLA, who did not wish to be named, lashed out at the high command for not giving importance to state leaders and imposing decisions. “Although the party high command has not asked the state unit to back out from protesting against the TMC, but with this meeting and bonhomie between our leaders and TMC after demonetisation, the message has already gone. The damage has been done and BJP will eat into our vote bank,” the senior leader said.
The BJP, propagating itself as the ‘real opposition’ in Bengal, said the meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Banerjee is a signal of both parties planning to open a front against BJP. “We have been saying for the last one year that only BJP can fight against the misrule of TMC as both the Left and the Congress have surrendered before Mamata Banerjee in Bengal,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.