With Pranabda in Rashtrapati Bhavan, race hots up in Bengal Congress for Cabinet berth
By Shutapa Paul - KOLKATA
Published: 29th Jul 2012 11:06:34 AM
With Pranab Mukherjee vacating his seat in the Union Cabinet, names have started floating within the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) regarding his replacement. While Mukherjee’s political acumen is irreplaceable, the WBPCC is rallying to ensure that West Bengal is represented in the Union Cabinet. The Sunday Standard has learnt that even though a number of veteran names are doing the rounds, Murshidabad District Congress President and Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and young Congress MP Mausam Benazir Noor have emerged as the front runners. “There will be representation from West Bengal. Not one, the state could even get two berths,” said Om Prakash Mishra, General Secretary and Spokesperson, WBPCC. A Union Minister and Union Minister of State cabinet berths could be up for grabs for the state Congress leaders.
Three-time MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has long been an influential leader in Murshidabad district and has an edge over others. He has wielded his power to even go against the party line in last year’s state polls by refusing to tie up with the Trinamool Congress (TMC). But this open flouting of the party diktat didn’t prompt Congress high command Sonia Gandhi to chastise him, so dependent is the party on him in Congress-dominated regions of West Bengal. On the other hand, 32-year-old Noor is the state’s Youth Congress President and favoured by Congress scion Rahul Gandhi himself. Her charisma and potential has superseded her status of being a first-time MP. “Rahul Gandhi has hand-picked her. Therefore, her chances of making it to the Union Cabinet are extremely strong. Even though she too is a first-time MP, she has overtaken Deepa Dasmunsi,” said a Congress leader.
Interestingly Priyaranjan Dasmunsi’s wife, Deepa has failed to emerge as one of favourites. Congress sources say that while both Adhir and Deepa share an acrimonious relationship with Mamata Banerjee, the latter has locked horns with Didi in a more public and bitter manner especially over the latter’s decision to shift an upcoming AIIMS-like hospital from Deepa’s constituency Raigunj to Kalyani in Nadia district. Deepa was also part of a monitoring committee that is probing the utilisation of UPA schemes in the state. “If Deepa is chosen it could cause further problems in the already strained TMC-Congress relationship. The Congress doesn’t want to antagonise Mamata Banerjee before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but the last decision rests with the party high command and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” added the Congress leader.
Other leaders such as Noor’s uncle and Congress MP, Abu Naser Khan Chowdhury, WBPCC President Pradip Bhattacharya and State Irrigation, Waterways and Textiles Minister Manas Bhunia are also probables. But Bhunia’s proximity to Didi and the TMC could spoil his chances. “This is a complete prerogative of the Prime Minister and the party high command and I can’t comment on it. But yes, as an AICC member in-charge of the state, I do wish someone from the state gets a representation in the cabinet,” said Shakeel Ahmed, General Secretary-in-charge of West Bengal.