Cong divided over Bengal election tie-up with cleric
Serious differences appeared in the Congress on Monday over its electoral alliance with Bengal cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front (ISF) in the coming assembly polls. Meanwhile, the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accused the Congress and the Left of playing communal politics by allying with the cleric
The Congress’ deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, accused the party’s Bengal president and its leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of diluting its core ideology and the secularism upheld by Gandhi and Nehru.
“Congress’ alliance with parties like ISF and other such forces militates against the core ideology of the party and Gandhian and Nehruvian secularism, which forms the soul of the party. These issues need to be approved by the CWC,” Sharma tweeted.
“Congress cannot be selective in fighting communalists but must do so in all its manifestations, irrespective of religion and colour. The presence and endorsement West Bengal PCC President is painful and shameful, he must clarify,” Sharma said in a second tweet, referring to Chowdhury’s presence at the CPI(M)’s mega rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Grounds on Sunday when Siddiqui delivered a speech where he asked his supporters to vote for the Left parties but did not mention the Congress.
“We are in charge of a state and don’t take any decision on our own without any permission,” Chowdhury was quoted by news agency ANI.
The sixth round of seat-sharing talks between the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), hit a wall with Chowdhury declaring that the party cannot spare any seats for the ISF in Murshidabad and Malda, the districts having maximum Muslim population in Bengal and where the ISF wanted to contest several seats.
“We hope the seat-sharing will work out in the next few days,” said Biman Bose, Left Front chairman and senior leader of the CPI(M) which has already spared 30 seats for the ISF.
“If the Congress does not spare seats for the ISF the future of the third front may be jeopardized,” another senior CPI(M) leader said on condition of anonymity.
“We still hope that the seat sharing will work out. Chowdhury has not officially communicated anything to us yet. We are not in this contest for our political gains. We represent all secular forces, the Dalits, the backward classes and the tribal people,” ISF president and Abbasuddin Siddiqui’s elder brother Nausad Siddiqui told HT on Monday night.
The ISF is a new political formation, although Abbasuddin Siddiqui has been in the news before -- usually for his provocative and controversial statements. In his speech on Sunday, Abbasuddin Siddiqui said he will not appease the Congress. “The rally made it clear that Siddiqui is dictating terms for the Congress. How can a party which calls itself secular be led by a religious leader,” said BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta.