The brewing bonhomie between the Congress and the Trinamool has suffered a setback with Mamata Bannerjee unilaterally announcing her candidate for the byelections to the Islampur assembly that falls in Information and Broadcasting Minister PR Dasmunsi’s Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency.
The West Bengal Congress in general and Dasmunsi in particular are now caught in a dilemma. If they field a candidate, the CPM nominee Syada Farhaz Afroz is likely to sail through in the division of votes as had happened in the assembly polls earlier this year when the Left party won with 45% votes though the combined tally of the Congress (18%) and the Trinamool (35%) was 54%. And if they don’t put up a candidate, they would have to overlook the fact that the Trinamool leader had taken them for granted.
For the Union Minister the humiliation would be greater as Mamata’s nominee—Abdul Karim Chowdhury—is a known Dasmunsi-baiter who is also a formidable candidate. He has won the 11 times even if it on different party symbols.
In an indication of the factionalism that marks the state unit, Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee is believed to have left it to Dasmunsi to decide whether a candidate should be fielded or not for the bypolls, nominations for which close on November 17. The West Dinajpur district committee, of which Islampur is a part, is, however, keen that the party put up a candidate in this muslim-dominated assembly seat.
But AICC general secretary in charge of West Bengal Margaret Alva has written to Mamata protesting why she had not consulted the Congress before announcing her candidate. There has been no response so far.
After consulting the 30-odd Congress leaders who had come to Delhi to discuss the West Bengal scenario—including the appointment of a Pradesh Congress Committee chief and the PCC executive—Alva sent a report to the Congress president on Tuesday evening.
Mamata’s move has come as a surprise to the Congress since the Trinamool leader had recently written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi suggesting that the two parties could hammer out a joint strategy to take on the Left Front in West Bengal. Sonia responded by asking Mamata to discuss the matter with Alva. The two are now expected to meet when Mamata comes for Parliament’s winter session starting November 22.
Earlier, the Congress and the Trinamool had cooperated by not putting up candidates against each other in the September assembly and Lok Sabha bypolls.