Even before the final list of candidates are out, the Congress leaders in West Bengal already seem to have accepted defeat and all the senior leaders have refused to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Frustration and dejection is written large not only among party workers in general all over the state, but also among senior leaders, except for a few Congress strongholds in districts like Murshidabad and Malda and Kolkata North seat where party heavyweight Somen Mitra, who recently rejoined the Congress from Trinamool, is contesting.
Despite AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s direction after his meeting with state Congress leaders asking all senior leaders to contest, all except one opted out of the poll fray.
Six sitting MPs, including two Union Ministers of State – A H Khan Chowdhury and Deepa Das Munshi -- and state Youth Congress president Mausam Noor, are contesting the polls.
Unlike past elections when the Congress leaders from the state would rush to the AICC headquarters in New Delhi to bag a nomination, this time there is not even a small crowd at the PCC office here.
Union Minister of State for Railways Adir Ranjan Chowdhury was recently appointed as PCC president because of his organising abilities replacing Pradip Bhattacharya, a Rajya Sabha MP.
Bhattacharya is also the state president of the INTUC and was doing a balancing act managing two posts at the same time.
Since the state party unit did not want any alliance at all with the ruling Trinamool Congress, Adir Chowdhury, known for his strong opposition against both the Trinamool Congress and the CPM, was Rahul’s favourite choice.
Adir Chowdhury was brought in to pump in oxygen to the party which stands in virtual political coma. Known to be a “Mamata baiter” Adhir expected support from senior state leaders as he himself admitted that his “political activities was confined to Murshidabad district” and he did not even know leaders in other districts.
But senior leaders like Pradip Bhattacharya, Bhuniya and a strongman from Nadia district Shankar Singh refused to be nominated for the Lok Sabha polls citing various excuses.
The only exception was veteran Congress leader Abdul Mannan who agreed to be nominated from Sreerampur Lok Sabha seat in his home district of Hooghly. But he too is now angry with the party high command for ignoring names of leaders suggested by district party units for contesting the polls.
Talking to Express, Mannan said, “I cannot accept the way the party is functioning.”
Mannan was also against an alliance with the Trinamool and though his name is yet to be officially announced by the AICC, workers here have already started campaigning for him from Sreerampur.
He said, “I have discussed the issue with party workers. I will not desert the Congress with which I have been associated for more than half a century and been elected to the state Assembly several times. I will either stay in the Congress or resign from politics.”
Countering him, Adir Chowdhury said, “It will be of no use trying to threat me. I love my party and do not believe in nepotism.” Senior Congress leaders felt Mannan was trying to create unnecessary pressure on the party leadership.
Adhir Chowdhury even pointed out that the nominee for the adjoining Lok Sabha seat in the same district was being finalised according to Mannan’s wishes only.
However, Mannan remains undeterred and rather pointed out, “I had agreed to contest because of the bad days being faced by the party. Majority of the senior leaders have fled the scene.”
Shankar Singh too is unhappy the way the party high command was finalising the names of Congress candidates. “Whatever is happening does not seem to be good for the party,” he said hinting at the AICC imposing nominees ignoring the views of district level party leaders.
During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections the Congress had an alliance with the Trinamool Congress and had won 6 seats while the Trinamool could bag 19 seats.