In the wake of the Congress-Left alliance losing the West Bengal polls, state Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury Tuesday made winning MLAs from his party sign an undertaking “swearing unqualified allegiance” to the party led by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
The undertaking, made on a Rs 100-stamp paper, also seeks to ensure that the MLAs will not “get involved in any anti-party activity”.
The decision to make MLAs sign the paper was unanimously agreed upon at a meeting between legislators, district presidents, state party leaders and Chowdhury.
When asked why, Chowdhury said: “It is not a bond which we have forced people (to sign) to take action against them if they fail to live up to the conditions. It is more of a voluntary pledge by partymen as a gesture of their allegiance. As far as voicing their concerns, there is and will always be ample scope for it within the party because there can always be disagreements. Just that they should not tom-tom it.”
The first of four points in the two-page stamp paper states: “I do swear my unqualified allegiance to Indian National Congress led by Hon’ble Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi Ji and Hon’ble Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi Ji.”
The second states: “I, as a member of the legislative assembly, will not get involved in any anti-party activity. Even if I do not agree with any party policy and/or party decision, I will not make any negative comment thereon and/or I shall not take any negative action to the detriment of the party. In such a scenario, I shall resign from my post of MLA before making such comment and/or taking such action.”
The third point refers to MLAs “abiding by the party guidelines” and following “guidelines framed by the CLP leader and the chief whip in the floor of the assembly”, while the fourth confirms that the first three statements are “true to my knowledge”.
“There is nothing wrong in it. There have been instances earlier of MLAs, after going to the assembly with the help of our party symbol, defecting to other parties under enticement or coercion. I believe this is a step in the right direction to stop the malpractice. If the MLA decides to switch sides on the basis of a disagreement on an issue, he or she should step down from the post of the MLA as well,” said senior Congress MLA Abdul Mannan, who won from Champdani constituency in Hooghly district.
But privately, some MLAs expressed the fear that such a move could dilute the “democratic nature of the party”. “The Congress has been known for its democratic nature, where one can voice his or her grievances freely. I hope this is not affected since the state president has not elaborated on it,” said an MLA, who did not wish to be named.