The deep divisions in the Congress’s West Bengal unit on whether to seek an alliance with the ruling Trinamool Congress for the Lok Sabha polls played out before Rahul Gandhi on Friday during his meeting with top leaders from the state. The Congress president, however, managed to avert an immediate split in the party with the MLAs who were planning to switch over to the TMC agreeing to wait for the high command’s decision.
There were demands for the removal of state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as well at the over three-hour meeting. Rahul met Chowdhury, MPs, MLAs and other leaders from the state individually to ascertain their views on what the party’s election strategy should be. Sources said opinion was divided and both sides later claimed the majority view was in their favour.
“I told Rahul Gandhi that the political situation in the state now is vastly different from 2016 (assembly elections) when we had an alliance with the Left. The BJP was nowhere there then. Now the BJP is gaining strength. The BJP is an issue both for the Congress and the TMC. If we fight the elections together, it is beneficial for both the TMC and the Congress. If we fight separately, both of us will suffer loses,” AICC secretary and Farakka MLA Mainul Haque told The Indian Express.
Haque had recently indicated at a public meeting that he may join the TMC if the party does enter into an alliance with the ruling party. Haque said Rahul asked him to wait till the high command takes a decision. “We have urged Rahulji to talk to the TMC…when he talks then only we will know whether the TMC wants an alliance or not,” he said, when asked whether the TMC was willing for a tie-up with the Congress.
On his decision to switch over to the TMC, he said, “Rahulji personally requested me to wait and not take a decision in a hurry. So I will wait for his decision. I hope a decision will come in one or two months.” While Haque received support from several MLAs and MPs like Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, several others like Adhir Chowdhury and the Opposition’s chief whip Manoj Chakraborty strongly opposed any tie-up with the TMC.
Chakraborty, who was attacked by suspected TMC workers in the recently held panchayat polls, and Chowdhury told Rahul that the TMC was out to eliminate the Congress and the entire Opposition, said sources. The sources also said that former Union minister Deepa Dasmunsi told Rahul that democracy is being murdered in Bengal, as was seen during the panchayat elections, and argued that the question is of saving democracy. She told Rahul that the party should not take any decision that will wipe out the party from the state and honour sentiments of Congress workers who are still holding the Congress flag aloft under TMC attack, said sources.
Sources said former AICC secretary Subhankar Sarkar demanded that Chowdhury be replaced. Veteran leader Somen Mitra told Rahul that the party does not have the strength to fight alone and that it should align with the TMC if it was looking for immediate gain and go with the Left if it wants to strengthen itself in the long run, said sources.