Over a month after Somen Mitra’s death, the race for the next West Bengal Congress unit president has gathered momentum. Senior Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Abdul Mannan, has written to party president Sonia Gandhi, urging her to appoint Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury the next state Congress chief.
“I will make an earnest request to you to appoint Adhir Chowdhury MP as the president of WBPCC and allow him to continue as the Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party in Lok Sabha simultaneously. To fight and defeat both BJP and TMC in the ensuing West Bengal Assembly election, Shri Chowdhury will be effective to lead the party in the Assembly election,” Mannan wrote, adding, “There are many who are claiming to be the president, but at this moment to strengthen the Left-Congress alliance and to defeat BJP and TMC, Adhir Chowdhury will be the best choice.”
However, Chowdhury told The Indian Express on Thursday that someone else should be given the opportunity to lead the state unit as he had already served as the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) president.
“Earlier, I was asked by the party to be the WBPCC chief. I had told the party that I have already served as state Congress president, therefore someone else should be made the state party chief. Anyone in the party can write to Sonia ji. It is their freedom of choice,” he added.
Both Mannan and Chowdhury were instrumental in forging the Congress’s electoral understanding with the Left Front in the 2016 Assembly elections.
“Without a party chief, the Left-Congress movement in the state has lost momentum. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to ensure that the movement goes on in the run-up to the Assembly polls. It is important that an able leader, who will take this forward, is made the state party chief,” said a senior party leader on the condition of anonymity.
According to him, Chowdhury, Mannan, and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Bhattacharya are the frontrunners to succeed Somen Mitra.
Mannan, the only one of the three not to have served as state Congress president, refused to comment on the matter. “I will not comment on the matter as I have communicated my opinion to the party,” he added.
Sources in the Congress said the high command had not selected the new Bengal chief yet as most of last month it was busy with the affairs in Rajasthan. The death of former President Pranab Mukherjee on August 31 delayed the process even more.
“The party is busy with a lot of issues at present. We are expecting an announcement on this very soon,” said a source.