Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is not happy with the Somen-Priya infighitng in the Bengal Congress.
And sources close to Pranab said that unwilling to be a part of this battle between two Congress stalwarts in Kolkata, he refused to attend the PC rally tipped as Somen Mitra's public meeting at Shaid Minar on Saturday, ostensibly on medical grounds.
Having submitted his resignation as PCC chief after the 2006 Assembly elections, Pranab is deliberately keeping a safe distance from both Somen Mitra and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi groups.
"It is only if we go to meet him and seek his advice, when he comes to the city during weekends, Pranab babu talks or else he keeps himself away from the happenings of the PCC," said Somen Mitra.
Pranab's silence is understandable. Since Pranab Mukherjee's opinion would matter to AICC President Sonia Gandhi in the selection of the next PCC chief, Pranab is deliberately not making his views clear to either the Somen or the Priya group who are now openly trying to out do each other in their attempt to control the PCC in Kolkata.
The recent incident where it became clear that Pranab wanted to keep himself away from the PCC activities was the March14 killings at Nandigram. Despite being the senior-most leader of the Congress in Kolkata, Pranab kept mum and did not show up in public either with the Somen or Priya teams making frequent trips to Nandigram after the incident.
However while the Somen Mitra lobby along with PCC working president Pradip Bhattacharya and CLP leader Manas Bhuniya frequently call on Pranab Mukherjee when he is in town, the same cannot be said about Dasmunshi or his loyalists like PCC general secretary Shankar Singh, Abdul Mannan, Maya Ghosh etc.
"There is no doubt that during his tenure as PCC president, Pranab Mukherjee never encouraged internal squabbles inside the party. Both Somen Mitra and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi maintained silence. But now with tension building up about the choice of the next PCC chief, Bengal Congress is in a real mess," said PCC Working President Pradip Bhattacharya.
Since Sonia Gandhi has not accepted his resignation and being the senior-most member of the party, can't Pranab Mukherjee mediate to end the infighting in the Bengal Congress? No, because he has no time due to his engagements at the Centre.
As a Pranab confidant Manas Bhuniya pointed out: "He is not just holding the important portfolio of external affairs in the Union Cabinet. He is also chairman of a committee of more than 20 group of ministers. He is also a Congress Working Committee member. Plus being the no 2 in the Unoin Cabinet and Sonia Gandhi's Man Friday, he has to perform many more roles. No wonder, he cannot give time to the PCC," said Manas Bhuniya.
But incidentally, to keep the Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi camp at bay in the PCC office, the State Congress leaders owing loyalty to Somen Mitra say that "as long as Pranab Mukherjee's resignation is not acepted by Sonia Gandhi he remains the Bengal Congress president". So even in his absence, Congressmen in Kolkata are using his name to serve their purpose.