In an unprecedented move and much to the shock and surprise of many, the state Congress has made all the winning MLAs in West Bengal sign an undertaking of allegiance to the party on a stamp paper of Rs 100 denomination.
Off the record, a few of them have said that they felt like bonded labourers after signing the ‘pledge’ (as the state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury has called it), but it is an attempt to deter defections to the ruling TMC party under the influence of one or many factors.
As far as the Congress is concerned in West Bengal, it may look like it has improved its performance in terms of the umber of seats and voter percentage it got in the recent assembly elections but the state leadership is still apprehensive about at least eight MLAs who have won with a margin of less than 5,000 votes and in five cases, less than 3,000. For the record, one of the Congress MLAs won by a margin of only 891 votes.
In the recent past, the state has witnessed a number of defections from almost all the recognised political parties to the TMC, with allegations that there was much horse-trading by the ruling party.
The Left-Congress alliance had fallen flat on its face after the poll results last week and the much-hyped ‘people’s alliance’ is now in the news for all the wrong reasons. This move to get the MLAs’ pledge is perhaps one way to forestall a possible exodus from the party.
Chowdhury admits that the pledge is not legally binding on anyone but MLAs may think twice before switching sides after signing the document. Now that they have gone ahead with the ‘pledge’ gambit, the most important task at hand for the Congress is to ensure that it doesn’t backfire because already a standing joke among dissatisfied MLAs is that they have not made the pledge to the Indian National Congress but to the 2Gs – the two Gandhis at the helm of party at the Centre.