Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee 'Bonhomie' Puts Bengal Congress In A Tight Spot

West Bengal Congress leaders feel bonhomie with TMC would be fatal as the Congress is trying to shield its flock from the 'poaching policy' of the Trinamool Congress.

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Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee 'Bonhomie' Puts Bengal Congress In A Tight Spot

Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee at 10 Janpath in New Delhi. (File)


Kolkata: 

The Congress in West Bengal is miffed with the party high command for not giving importance to its views. The West Bengal Congress unit is also of the opinion that the recent 'bonhomie' between the Congress leadership and Trinamool Congress or TMC chief Mamata Banerjee will put the party's existence at stake in the state.

The Congress has repeatedly suffered poll setbacks and defections to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's party in West Bengal. The meeting between Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee in New Delhi on May 16 to discuss a strategy for the upcoming presidential polls, has irked the West Bengal Congress leadership.

Congress leaders in West Bengal feel that any kind of bonhomie with the TMC would be fatal for the state unit as it is fighting hard to keep its flock together from the "poaching policy" of the TMC.

The Congress in West Bengal also feels that the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP will eat into Congress votes in the state. "Although the meeting was regarding the presidential elections, yet it is a matter of concern as party workers and leaders are asking several questions and we don't have any proper answer," former Congress Member of Parliament Deepa Dasmunsi said.

"At a time when the TMC is trying to finish off Congress in the state either by use of violence or poaching our elected representatives, a meeting of our top leadership with the TMC is sending out a wrong message," Ms Dasmunsi said.

"It is tough to convince party workers who were beaten up by TMC goons on the local bodies polling day, that there has been no compromise," Ms Dasmunsi said.

West Bengal Congress President Adhir Chowdhury had sent a letter to Sonia Gandhi on May 13, asking her not to allow any equation of national politics hamper the prospects of the Congress in West Bengal.

Adhir Chowdhury felt the Congress workers were "miffed" and "it was destiny of the Bengal Congress to suffer due to equations of national politics".

"Yes, there are lots of apprehensions and questions among the grassroots workers, who despite all sorts of threat and intimidation by TMC, has been carrying the party flag. We are trying to answer those queries, but we are not sure whether we can convince them. Congress in Bengal has been suffering for a long time due to equations of national politics," Adhir Chowdhury said.

"In 2004, Congress vote bank got eroded and TMC benefited when it was decided that we will take the Left's support to form a government at the centre. Now, due to this (meeting), BJP is trying to squeeze benefit," Mr Chowdhury said.

Mr Chowdhury, however, added that the Congress high command has not asked the West Bengal unit to stop protesting against the ruling TMC.

Congress General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed said the apprehensions are unfounded. "No one should equate the considerations and equations of national politics with state politics. We are trying to get BJD (Biju Janata Dal) from Odisha with us in this presidential polls. The party workers in Odisha are not raising such questions," Mr Ahmed said.

Mr Ahmed said he is confident that the West Bengal Congress unit is "intelligent enough to understand the complications and equations of fighting a communal force like BJP."

Since the West Bengal Assembly elections in May 2016, the number of Congress MLAs has fallen from 44 to 39 in the state after the party's Members of Legislative Assembly joined the TMC. The West Bengal Congress also lost two of its Zilla Parishads - Malda and Murshidabad - to the TMC.

A West Bengal Congress MLA, who declined to be named, criticised the high command for not giving importance to state leaders and for imposing decisions. "Although the party high command has not asked the state unit to back out from protesting against the TMC, but with this meeting and bonhomie between our leaders and TMC after demonetisation, the message has already gone. The damage has been done and BJP will eat into our vote bank," the Congress leader said.

The BJP, which calls itself the "real opposition" in West Bengal, said the meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee is a signal of the Congress and TMC planning to open a front against the BJP.

"We have been saying for the last one year that only BJP can fight against the misrule of TMC as both the Left and the Congress have surrendered before Mamata Banerjee in Bengal," West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh said.



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