The rift in the Opposition camp was out in the open on Wednesday as the Trinamool Congress, the CPM and the Congress battled it out for a seat in the governing council of Employees’ State Insurance Corporation. Trinamool won the election with 90 votes — some of them from BJP MPs.
Both the Congress and the Trinamool accused each other of ganging up with the BJP.
Congress candidate Pradeep Bhattacharya got 46 votes, while CPM’s E Kareem got eight. Most non-Congress, non-BJP parties such as Shiv Sena, JD(U), RJD, SP and BSP voted for the Trinamool candidate; as did about 14 BJP MPs though none of the ministers went to cast votes.
Although not unprecedented, elections are usually not held for seats on boards such as Jute Board, ESIC etc as the incumbents are decided through consensus. The last Rajya Sabha MP on the board was Trinamool’s D Bandopadhyay. The party claimed that in fielding Dola Sen, it had merely followed Parliamentary “tradition” and had been caught unawares by the other two nominations.
“This seat was allotted to the Trinamool Congress. These things are normally decided by consensus because there is nothing political here. For the first time, Congress and CPM breached that tradition and filed nominations. Election was inevitable but we reached out to them and tried to prevent an election till the last minute. They did not relent even after our leader Derek O’Brien spoke to them. This was unnecessary, there is nothing to be gained politically from this,” said Trinamool MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy.
Other Trinamool leaders said the “arrogance” of the Congress reflected poorly on the whole Opposition block.
Congress candidate Bhattacharya accused the Trinamool of reaching an “understanding” with the BJP to support their Bills in lieu of the ESIC seat. “BJP MPs went and voted for them because they want their Bills passed. They have reached an understanding. Ministers like (Prakash) Javadekar quietly went and voted for them. I will expose Trinamool in the House. I did not even know that this is D Bandopadhyay’s seat. By the time I got to know, the last date for withdrawing nominations was over. Last night, Derek called and said let’s all withdraw in favour of the Left. It does not work like that. They are hand-in-glove with the BJP. That is why they disappeared when we were protesting against what is happening in Karnataka.”
Trinamool leaders claimed that the formula of making the Left win the election was rejected by the Congress out of “sheer arrogance”.
Responding to Bhattacharya’s allegation, Roy said, “It’s funny that people who ganged up against Trinamool and benefited the BJP in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections make that accusation against us. Everybody knows who Congress and Left helped in West Bengal.”