A quiet Somen Mitra hits out against Congress

The introvert, die-hard Congresman, Somen Mitra is upset with the Congress leadership in the State and at the Centre.

kolkata Updated: Apr 12, 2007 19:19 IST

The introvert, die-hard Congresman, Somen Mitra is upset with the Congress leadership in the State and at the Centre. And Somen Mitra firmly believes that Congress has to be "cleansed" to get back to its glorious days in Bengal.

Disgusted with the leaders for not launching any political movement in Bengal, Somen Mitra and his men are indicating that if things do not fall in place they would continuing with the movement withinn the Congress so that it can be revived to fight the CPI(M) in Kolkata.

Add to this Congress’ inactivity in the last one year. Ever since, Pranab Mukherjee resigned as PCC president after the May 2006 Assembly polls, the AICC has not yet selected the next party chief of Bengal. Left rudderles, the Congress has become inactive in Bengal.

"This cannot continue. We are losing out to our adversaries. Congress needs to be cleansed in Bengal. People are saying Congress here has lost touch with the grassroots workers. No wonder, people have lost faith in the Congress," an angry former PCC chief Somen Mitra told the Hindustan Times.

Somen has ben fuming ever since Congress’ miserable performance in the 2006 Assembly polls. Congress just managed to win 20 seats. Added to this, Congress’ policy of distancing itslf from Nandigram and Singur agitations also made Somen unhappy.

Coming from a soft-spoken man, who speaks very little, Somen Mitra’s outburst has shocked both his party leaders and his adversaries in the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M).

Put on the backburner ever since his two term as PCC chief between 1992 and 1998, Somen says the way the Congress is functioning (read non-functioning) in Bengal, it would cease to exist in the coming days.

As Somen pointed out that unlike the CPI(M) which is a cadre-based party, the Congress is a mass-based outfit. So if it loses connection with the people, the result would be "disastrious".

According to insiders, there was tremendous pressure on Somen Mitra from the leaders of the distirct Congress to take steps and make right noises so that it is heard by the AICC high command, which has been neglecting for nine years now.

People of Bengal, Somen said, are peeved with the Congress leadership in Delhi for the manner in which they have neglected Nandigram and Singur issues. Also, they don’t like the Congres tie-up with the CPI(M) at the Centre.

"In fact, the disgruntled Congress suporters and district leaders have openly demanded that both Pranab Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi should give up their Cabinet posts to lead the party here against the CPI(M)," said Somen Mitra.

PCC general secretary Jayanta Bhattacharya pointed out that Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s statement in Rajya Sabha, Sonia Gandhi’s time for Chief Miniser Budhadeb Bhattacharjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s timid reaction to the Nandigram killings all indicated that Congress is not serious to take on the CPI(M).

All this had a serious negative impact on the Congress workers and leaders – most of whom are Somen Mitra loyalists. And they believe only Somen – the man who has risen from poster boy to PCC president – can revive the Congress in Bengal.

Senior State Congres leaders said that when Somen Mitra makes sounds, you better listen. In the 100-member PCC Executive Committee, 80 of them belong to Somen camp. Among the 450 PCC general members, atleast 375 of them are Somen loyalists.

"Among the 35 PCC office bearers, 22 are Somen loyalists and in the Lesgislative Assembly, 12 out of the 22 MLAs are Somen campers. So if Somen pulls the carpet, it can get serious," said PCC general secretary Jayanta Bhattacharya.

Somen loyalists also point out that it was during his two-term tenure as elected PCC president (1992-1998) that the Congress got 83 MLAs (highest so far) and more than 20 panchayats. What’s more, out of the 18 districtcs in Bengal, the seven-time MLA from Sealdah, Somen Mitra, has complete organisational control over 14 districts.

But is Somen Mitra going to leave the Congress? No. Somen categorically said that he wants to "rectify the party but he will never leave the party".

"Don’t forget that since the Sixties I am with the Congress. And unlike all the senior leaders here, I have never left the Congress," said Somen.

First Published: Apr 12, 2007 19:16 IST