Triumph for state Cong, plus a bit of identity crisis
West Bengal Congress leaders were jubilant, but the euphoria was tempered with a looming discomfort? a possible Congress-Left alignment in New Delhi. The poll results will mark a new beginning for the state Congress.
Pradeep Bhattacharyya, like all other Congress leaders, was jubilant on Thursday. But the euphoria was tempered with a looming discomfort— a possible Congress-Left alignment in Delhi. The poll results on Thursday would mark a new beginning for the state Congress.
Rejuvenating the organisation and re-activating the party workers is definitely on the cards. And trying to fill in the political vacuum created by the near-decimation of the Trinamool Congress is the party’s top priority. But wouldn’t that pit the Congress against the Left in this state? That’s the question no Congress leader wants to answer at the moment.
“We’ll decide on our policies and agenda for this state once Pranab Mukherjee returns from Delhi,” was all Bhattacharyya would say. “The Lok Sabha elections were fought and won on national issues that are more important than state issues. We’ll tackle the state issues in future,” he added.
Senior Congress leader and the newly-elected MP from Raigunj, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, had a glib answer: “In Kolkata, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal fight pitched battles on the football field. But players from both the sides form the national football team. So there’s nothing wrong in joining hands with the Left at the Centre and battling it politically in the state”.
But then, politics is not a football game and Congress leaders and workers know it all too well. Party strongman and Behrampore MP Adhir Choudhury — a staunch critic of the Left — was the only Congress leader who said his party’s fight against the Left, particularly the CPI(M), would continue.
The unease of Bhattacharyya and hundreds of his party colleagues is understandable. “The total rout of the Trinamool has created a vacuum and it would be foolish to allow the BJP to step in now. We’ll definitely do our best fight to fill this vaccum,” said the state Congress chief.
He says that strengthening the party structure “on this side of the Ganges” would be the party’s top priority. “We have to admit that though we’ve snatched Darjeeling, Jangipur and Murshidabad seats from the Left Party, we’ve not been able to do anything below Murshidabad. We’ll have to look into that,” he added. But the fact that this would pitch the Congress against the Left is something no Congress leader wants to face, at least for now.
But a large section of Congress workers, buoyed by the poll results, is already spoiling for a fight with the Left.
Such sentiments came to the fore in the sloganeering by Congress workers—many slogans were about replicating the success at the national level by ending the rule of the Left raj in Bengal.
Also, at least two Congress MPs from Bengal—in all likelihood, Das Munshi and Pranab Mukherjee—would get important portfolios in the Union Cabinet.
“That would definitely enthuse the Congress workers and embolden them to go on the warpath against the CPI(M). Restraining them would be tough, embarrassing and damaging to the long-term interests of our party,” admitted a senior party leader who didn’t want to be named.
Senior Congress leaders would, thus, have to do a fine balancing act between engaging with the Left at the Centre and crossing swords with the party in West Bengal.
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