The Congress high command has tweaked its earlier stand of avoiding sharp criticism of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her party in Bengal on the issue of arrest of two high-profile Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MPs in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam.
In its new approach the party leaders have decided that while it will continue floor coordination with Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties within Parliament on the demonetisation issue, it will give Congress leaders in Bengal a free hand in coordinating with Left Front in organising united opposition in the state mainly on the two issues of TMC’s involvement in chit fund scam and the deteriorating law and order situation.
The man responsible for convincing the Congress high command to change its earlier stand of silence is the leader of the Congress legislative party in West Bengal, Abdul Mannan. Incidentally, he had a prominent role in striking an understanding with the Left Front before the 2016 West Bengal assembly elections.
Mannan argued that Congress, which is now the principal opposition party in West Bengal with 40 MLAs in a house of 294 (two MLAs have joined TMC after 2016 assembly polls), will lose all its relevance unless it aggressively organises protest meetings against the state government.
“Every day Congress workers are attacked and killed in Bengal. Trinamool is continuously poaching workers of Congress either by use of muscle or money power. Over two crore people were affected by the Ponzi scam. In such a situation, Congress cannot remain silent on such matters, and our central leadership is well aware of the situation,” Mannan told HT.
Incidentally, immediately after the arrest of Trinamool Lok Sabha members Tapas Pal on December 30 and Sudip Bandopadhyay on January 4, Congress openly backed Mamata Banerjee’s allegations that the arrests were prompted by political vendetta to silence Trinamool’s relentless criticism against the demonetisation issue.
A senior AICC member told HT that Mannan’s argument was that since Congress is not maintaining floor coordination on demonetisation not only with TMC but also with other opposition parties including CPI(M), there is no harm in the Bengal unit of Congress to have coordination with Left Front against Trinamool in the state.
“His argument that the political strategy nationally need not be matching state-specific game plan sounded valid and, therefore, WBPCC was given a free-hand to chalk out its own strategy,” the AICC member said.
Over the past decades, Congress in Bengal has lost much of its significance first during the 34-year Left rule, and subsequently in Mamata Banerjee’s regime since 2011. However, the results of the 2016 assembly polls proved that the Left have performed the worst since Independence, a fact that improved the position of Congress by comparison.
Significantly, the CBI investigation into the chit fund scams is a culmination of a long court battle by Congress leader Abdul Mannan. The investigation into Rose Valley (about Rs 17,000 crore involved), MPS group (about Rs 4,000 crore) and Saradha group (about Rs 2,500 crore) apart from a host of other firms are all fruits of that litigation.