Royal Bengal egos spoil Sonia show

Updated on May 05, 2004 07:52 PM IST

Ghani Khan's grouse was that Sonia had declined to hold another meeting in Malda in addition to the one at Samsi, where she sought votes for PR Das Munshi.

HT Image
HT Image
PTI | ByMoushumi Saha & Rahul Das, Malda/dhuliyan

Sonia Gandhi should have known she was in Bengal where egos are almost always larger than life and factional feuds the staple diet for political lightweights in desperate search for headlines. Today, she got a first-hand taste of things when A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury skipped her meeting at Samsi and a party general secretary created a ruckus at her Dhuliyan rally.

Ghani’s grouse was that Sonia had declined to hold another meeting in Malda in addition to the one at Samsi, where she sought votes for Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, her candidate for Raiganj. The slighted King of Malda decided he wouldn’t go himself to receive the party chief nor would he attend the Samsi rally. A letter of regret would be enough.

The gesture — or the lack of it — was too coarse to be lost on Das Munshi. “We wanted Barkatda here. I myself went to him in the morning. But he didn’t agree to come. It’s unfortunate,” he told Hindustan Times.

As it turned out, some 50,000 people came to hear Sonia, who said, “The NDA govt has not only threatened the country’s tradition of communal harmony, it has also broken all records in corruption. “The BJP, which took no part in the freedom movement has no right to rule the country. All it has done is level false allegations against Nehru, Indira and Rajiv — the true builders of the nation.”

Without naming the Trinamool she said, “There are some parties in Bengal which cannot make up their minds about their allies.”

The crowd listened with rapt attention; sometimes bursting into cheers. But Samsi, although part of the Raiganj constituency, falls within Malda district where Ghani enjoys a huge following among the minorities. And for all the BJP bashing by Sonia, Ghani’s absence may significantly impact the Congress’s vote share in the district.

Dhuliyan had set aside a different treat for Sonia. The Congress chief said all the predictable things in her address to a biggish crowd. But it was state party general secretary Pradyut Guha who seemed to steal the show for a large part of her speech.

Rather than the threat from communalism or the fake glitter of feel-good, the subject of Guha’s high-decibel rant was how he and his huge army of followers had been denied access near Sonia’s podium by the SPG because Pranab Mukherjee, the party’s candidate for the Jangipur seat, had not given them the necessary passes. “I will take the matter up at the highest level,” Guha later told HT.

Congressmen loyal to Pranab Mukherjee said Guha, aided by former MLA Md Saurab and some other disgruntled members, had tried to disrupt the meeting.

What the Congress chief made of it, nobody knows. If she was disappointed she hid it well.

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