Updated: May 4, 2021 11:27:13 pm
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who led the Congress’s campaign in West Bengal, is the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. When the group of 23 wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking reforms in the party, he strongly defended the leadership. In an interview to The Indian Express after its debacle in the recent Assembly elections, he admits need for a change in the party functioning.
What went so wrong for the Congress in West Bengal? Your vote share is down to 3%, you did not win even one seat.
The TMC wanted to retain power and the BJP wanted to wrest power. We did not have such stakes, our fight was for survival. The BJP left no stone unturned to communalise the political environment. They failed. But in some areas where Muslims are concentrated, like Murshidabad and Malda, polarisation was served.
Polarisation aggravated after the Sitalkuchi firing in which four youths were killed and all of them were Muslim. Mamata Banerjee succeeded in exploiting the situation…her dole and concession politics, the politics of populism, and the very adroit poll strategy of Prashant Kishor made for a formidable combination. The women relied on Mamata and the Muslim population was convinced that if we don’t want a repeat of Uttar Pradesh in Bengal, the saviour will be Mamata.
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Your alliance with the Left and the ISF (Indian Secular Front of Furfura Sharif) backfired?
We failed to offer a proposal, plan or vision to the common people…that the Left- Congress combine could make things better. The Left took the initiative of forging the alliance with the ISF. The common Left workers took great offence.
So Left cadres transferred their vote to TMC?
Yes, a part of it. Certainly.
What about Congress votes?
(These went to) BJP and Trinamool both. But mainly Trinamool because the Congress gets basically Muslim votes. The Muslim vote went to Trinamool and the Hindu vote went to the BJP. For us, there is nothing left.
There was a perception that the Congress high command didn’t take active interest in Bengal.
The TMC raised this, that I had been left high and dry and I do not have the support of the AICC. After two rallies, Rahul Gandhiji stopped coming to West Bengal because of the Covid situation. It also demoralised our workers and gave a handle to the ruling regime to humiliate us…We had to fend for ourselves. We have been decimated by Mamata Banerjee regionally, we have been decimated by Modiji nationally. The BJP is the threat for us nationally and Mamata Banerjee is the threat for us regionally. So where should we go?
What’s your future plan?
Nothing. I have been defeated in a humiliating manner. At this point, you may call me an ex-MP. If the results give any indication, certainly I have become an ex-MP.
What do you see ahead?
I cannot expect any bright prospects in this present situation. However, things certainly will change because the credibility of the Narendra Modi government has been reducing day after day. So if the Congress is able to put forth its point more vigorously and not confine itself to Twitter or WhatsApp but hit the streets in support of common people… otherwise this opportunity also will be lost. We should hit the streets because there’s no dearth of issues and people are suffering a lot. That they have failed miserably in dealing with the Covid situation…and all other aspects and only the Congress and its allies can be the alternative.
The G-23 leaders also said you cannot fight the BJP simply through social media.
What I meant is that we cannot afford to be cocooned in Twitter or Facebook. We cannot enjoy the luxury of Twitter or Facebook because the situation has come to such a pass that without hitting the street, we cannot impact the psyche of the common people. For instance, the Congress president has instructed all workers that put your work aside, help all Covid patients.
What difference would Rahul Gandhi have made had he campaigned more?
The Congress has been defeated but that does not mean Rahul Gandhi’s efforts have failed because this time, in Kerala, we had to fight a person like Pinarayi Vijayan, who earned kudos from the common people, has become an icon of development. In comparison to other Left functionaries, he has made a clear distinction….to the people, for the people, by the people…and not for the party, by the party, of the party. On the other hand, was the internal squabbling in the Congress. In Assam, the man who made the difference is Himanta Biswa Sarma. The man who knows the art of winning elections is him. It is not to the credit of the BJP’s national leadership…rather the credit must go to Sarma.
You are ceding space to regional parties.
Already regional parties have been capturing the space. Mamata Banerjee certainly has been grabbing the national space already and rightfully so because she has been able to prevent the Modi juggernaut in Bengal. It has been amply proved.
If there is a talk about a federal front or a national front to take on the BJP; how do you see that?
We are always pleading in favour of it. Because what was the real essence of UPA I? It was certainly a federal front led by the Congress because the Congress got the strength at that time….
Will Congress be part of a front it doesn’t lead?
First of all, let the federal front coalesce. Thereafter, it will be decided that upon whose leadership the federal front would be run. Before the eggs hatch, we cannot count the chickens. Let us first come to the conclusion that we have to have a federal front to deal with the Modi juggernaut. Thereafter, who will be the competent person to lead will be considered by all the stakeholders…he or she will lead.
What about those who won yesterday…Banerjee, Vijayan, M K Stalin?
I don’t have an issue. Because if we think the BJP is our arch adversary and we have to defeat the BJP by any means, then we can consider who should be the suitable and competent person to lead it, either collectively or under any personality. No problem.
Will you resign as state Congress chief?
I refused to accept this post but when Madam (Sonia Gandhi) herself directed me (to take over), I did not have the guts to refuse. Whenever the AICC leadership feels that I should be replaced, I am ready, they are at liberty to do it. I am also ready to do whatever is directed.
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