KOLKATA: With Mamata Banerjee's 'anti-BJP coalition' allies RJD and JD (U) falling apart and one forming government with BJP in Bihar and CPM central committee issuing diktat to Bengal unit to stay away from Congress, Mamata Banerjee came close to Congress by extending support to the party’s Rajya Sabha candidate Pradip Bhattacharya on Friday.
The move came after the Trinamool Congress supremo held a closed door meeting with Pradip Bhattacharya and Opposition leader Abdul Mannan of Congress at the state Assembly on Wednesday. On the other hand, just after the announcement of the Congress candidate, Left Front put up former Kolkata mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya as their Rajya Sabha candidate.
Speaking to media, Mamata Banerjee said: “We will support Congress candidate Pradip Bhattacharya. CPM made former Kolkata mayor Bikash Bhattacharya their candidate. Is he a non-political personality? Victory of Pradip da is ensured as we will support him.” To this, the Left Front candidate said that the chief minister is not the political advisor of the Left and urged ‘non-corrupt’ politicians in TMC to vote for Left. In a veiled attack on CPM, Pradip Bhattacharya said: “We did not get the support from whom we had expected.”
Left Front spokesperson Biman Basu said that they were kept in the dark over the candidature of Pradip Bhattacharya.
“Congress and Left had decided to put up a joint apolitical candidate for Rajya Sabha. However, Congress did not approach us. We were completely in the dark over the candidature of Pradip Bhattacharya and wasted two days in discussions over the joint candidate,” he said.
However, Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Adhir Ranjan Choudhury has denounced Mamata’s support saying that she knew she could not win the sixth seat.
“We have given our candidate, we don’t care who supports us or not. TMC has put up five candidates. If they don’t give the 6th, it is their concern. It has nothing to do with Congress. If they have confidence to win, I urge them to put up the sixth candidate as well,” he said.
Choudhury, a Congress stalwart from his fort Murshidabad district in central Bengal, has repeatedly been offered by BJP to join the saffron party.
Trinamool Congress has already nominated five of its leaders – Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Dola Sen, Manas Bhuniya and Shanta Chhetri – to the Rajya Sabha. The support to the Congress candidate for the sixth seat from the state is being seen as a paradigm shift in political alliances in the state. Though the Congress and TMC together fought the 2011 Assembly elections to rout the Left Front out of power, the Left and the Congress came together in the 2016 elections. Badly hit by defections, Congress was nearly set to lose its Opposition party tag by coming down to 30 MLAs from the original 2016 tally of 42.