The state Congress would support dissident Trinamool Congress candidates in places where it would not be able to put up candidates in the forthcoming panchayat elections early next year.
The party is banking on the dissidents in most districts of south Bengal, where the Congress is comparatively a lesser force, compared to Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur, considered the party’s strongholds. Senior Congress leaders admitted that they would not be able to put up candidates in some areas of North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and East Midnapore districts among others, either due to lack of suitable candidates or due to violence unleashed by ruling party workers.
“In areas where we would not be able to put up candidates, we would surely lend our support to rebel Trinamool candidates in the fray. Going by the present state of affairs in the ruling party, we are sure that a lot of Trinamool workers would contest as independents on being denied party tickets,” said state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya.
Senior Congress leaders concede that lending support to rebel Trinamool candidates would have two advantages. One, violence against Congress workers would come down in those areas, and, second, rebel Trinamool workers have a ready-made cadre and vote base that the state Congress leadership wants to utilise to the fullest.
“Trinamool is our bigger enemy now and we would want to ensure that their candidates are defeated at any cost. In places where we would put up candidates, we expect them to give a tough fight. No kind of understanding with Trinamool candidates at the micro-level would be tolerated,” said Bhattacharya.
Union minister of state for urban development Deepa Das Munshi said that district party leaders would be given full responsibility for candidate selection for the panchayat polls in respective districts. “Whether the party would back rebel Trinamool candidates is a decision best taken by the local leadership. But we would try to woo ruling party dissidents into our fold. We would want them to contest on Congress tickets with a view to strengthening our organisation in places where we have difficulty putting up candidates,” Munshi said.
Congress leaders alleged that their party workers were beaten up in Haldia, Shibpur and Sabang in West Midnapore in the recent past. They fear that with the panchayat polls approaching, Trinamool cadres would further escalate attacks on Congress workers. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee fell out with the central Congress leadership over the issues of foreign direct investment, price rise of petrol and diesel and cap on subsidised LPG cylinders.
Earlier, Banerjee even refused to support UPA’s presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee though later she grudgingly pledged support to his candidature. Trinamool pulled out of UPA II on September 21, after which state Congress leaders reciprocated by pulling out of the Trinamool-led alliance in West Bengal the day after, on September 22.
Even while sharing power, state Congress leaders complained of being sidelined by the Trinamool on crucial issues. The verbal attacks only grew stronger after it parted ways with the ruling party. Congress has for long questioned the law and order situation in the state and even submitted repeated deputations to the governor.