There may be a subtext to the West Bengal poll narrative. Even after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee issued the caveat of strong disciplinary action, including expulsion for six years, Congress dissidents remained unrelenting.
Kanailal Agarwal, an Independent from Islampur, may be hinting at something bigger at play. “What happened was not an alliance. Mukherjee and West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Manas Bhuniya can say what they want. Here the local Congressmen have asked me to contest and hence I will continue with my campaign programme,” he said.
The Congress got only 65 out of 294 seats, following the pact with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. Many leaders and sitting MLAs of the Congress were denied tickets, immediately leading to murmurs of dissent.
Adding confusion to chaos are local Congress heavyweights like Shankar Singh of Nadia, Adhir Ranjan Choudhury of Murshidabad and Deepa Dasmunshi of North Dinajpur, who are openly siding many such Independent candidates.
The Raigunj MP and wife of ailing leader Priyaranjan Dasmunshi said, “What I am doing is just to save my party. I cannot campaign for the Trinamool.” She has been campaigning for Independents and attending their meetings.
Triangular fights have thus become inevitable in such constituencies. This will queer the pitch for the TMC, which gave the national party very little manoeuvering space during the seat-sharing exercise.
In Cooch Behar, the Congress got just 2 out of 9 seats, 1 out of 6 in South Dinajpur, 1 out of 17 in Nadia, and 1 out of 18 in Hooghly. Even in Congress strongholds of Malda and Murshidabad, the TMC wrested 3 and 4 seats, respectively.
“People want me to fight and therefore I will stand as an Independent,” said Ram Pyare Ram, who is expected to contest against alliance candidate Bobby Hakim of Trinamool from Kolkata Port constituency.
The mood is the same in districts like Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda, and Coochbihar. A small minority has, however, started to change its mind. On Monday, Prabesh Mondol, a Congress dissident and independent candidate from Manikchowk constituency, withdrew his candidature.