Senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan is likely to become the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly after he was named the leader of the Congress Legislature Party on Monday.
As Congress with 44 seats is the second largest party in the Assembly after Trinamool Congress, the mantle of the Opposition Leader will very likely fall on Mannan, who won from Champdani constituency in Hooghly district.
Mannan was chosen as the CLP leader over Abu Hena and Manas Bhunia, after 39 newly-elected Congress MLAs submitted their individual preferences in a secret ballot to senior leaders C P Joshi and Ambika Soni at the party meeting at Bidhan Bhavan on Friday.
Five other MLAs, who were absent in the meeting, were said to have made their choices known to the leadership over phone.
Bhunia, who was elected from Sabang in West Medinipur, was skipped for the position because of his initial opposition to the alliance with Left Front and the public declaration of his policy of ‘ekla chalo’ (walk alone), political analysts said.
With Mannan’s election, the Congress high command has sent out a signal in favour of the alliance with the Left Front as he had been one of the first leaders to favour the tie-up and spoke about putting up a united fight against the Trinamool government, according to analysts.
Meanwhile, Congress state president Adhir Chowdhury said he had recommended Mannan’s name for the position of Leader of Opposition to the central leadership. “He has been an apt parliamentarian and an uncompromising leader and he is the right choice for the Leader of Opposition,” Chowdhury said, talking to The Indian Express.
Many MLAs of the party, too said Mannan was the best choice for the post of Leader of Opposition in state Assembly. “There were other contenders for the post such as Manas Bhunia, Manoj Chakraborty and Nepal Mahato. But Mannan has more experience and is better equipped for this post. He has been Leader of the Opposition before and worked as the party’s chief whip as well,” said a senior party leader, who had been part of the voting process for chosing the CLP leader.
Talking to The Indian Express, Mannan said he was grateful to the central leadership, including party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, as well as Chowdhury and all party MLAs for chosing him as CLP leader.
Asked if there were plans to launch a joint movement against the state government, he said, “We have been putting up joint movements inside and outside the assembly against the anti-people policies of Trinamool Congress government for a long time. So it is natural that there will be a joint movement in the future as well.”
Mannan further said he, along with Left Front MLAs, would demand that the post of deputy speaker be given to the Opposition.
(With PTI inputs)