The bonhomie between allies Congress and Trinamool Congress was on view at Nalhati on Monday, with Trinamool leaders sharing the stage with Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to pitch for his son Abhijit, who is contesting the Nalhati assembly seat.
The same marked a far cry from the ongoing wave of dissidence in the Congress over the seat arrangements between the allies, thereby putting a big question mark on the alliance.
Local Congress leadership reckons that the alliance and a joint campaign holds key to the party returning a favourable mandate in what is a prestige fight for the Congress in the Nalhati seat. While Trinamool leaders shared the dais with Mukherjee and sought to solicit support for his son, the minister heaped praise on Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee. Nalhati seat has assumed significance for Congress, since Mukherjee’s son, a rookie in politics, is the poll nominee. However, things were not as rosy from the start. The local Trinamool leaders had expected Biplab Ojha, civic chief of Nalhati municipality, to be announced as the party’s nominee from this seat. “Mukherjee’s candidature really shocked us, since we have been bracing to work for Biplab Ojha,” said Trinamool leader. The shock soon gave away to a wave of dissent, which kept local Trinamool supporters away from Mukherjee’s election campaign.
“Trinamool has a very strong hold in this area. We are in charge of the local civic body. We had hoped that our state leadership would lay due diligence to our influence in the area,” the leader said.
Sources further revealed that the Congress had approached Trinamool to find a way out. “This seat is very important to us. Pranabda’s son is contesting. An unfavourable verdict could cast a shadow on Pranabda’s image and career. We want to win this seat at any cost,” said a district Congress leader.
The crisis grew progressively worse as Rudradeb Ghosh, a local Trinamool leader, filed his nomination as an Independent candidate, in the presence of Ojha. As part of the compromise settlement, Ghosh later withdrew his nomination from the seat.