New Delhi: The Congress party, which drew a blank in the recent West Bengal assembly elections, is unlikely to field a candidate against chief minister Mamata Banerjee in her by-election from Kolkata’s Bhowanipur seat in a move that might assume significance for the long-term equations of India’s Opposition parties.
While the Banerjee-led Trinamool won Bengal, she lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, and now needs to win a bypoll to retain her seat.
West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, considered as one of the staunchest critics of Banerjee, said on Thursday that he feels the Congress should not filed a candidate against her out of political courtesy.
Former Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya too, echoed the sentiment. “So far, AICC (All-India Congress Committee) has not communicated us anything formally. We are part of an alliance with the CPI(M) and the issue has not been discussed there as well. But I am also of the opinion that the Congress can avoid fielding a candidate against the chief minister,” he told HT.
Two Congress strategists in Delhi said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has informally conveyed her unwillingness to put up a candidate against Banerjee. “Apart from her excellent personal equation with Mamata, the Congress president is perhaps looking at wider scopes of Opposition unity,” said a senior Congress leader.
The party’s reluctance also seems to stem from its worst-ever poll performance in the recent Bengal elections as the BJP emerged as the principal opposition in the state.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too, recently spoke about Banerjee in a press conference when he said, “If PM Narendra Modi can be on the same page with (Chhattisgarh CM) Bhupesh Baghel and (West Bengal CM) Mamata Banerjee, the door will be shut for coronavirus.”
Congress insiders maintain that any opposition pact inside or outside Parliament would not be possible without India’s only woman CM, especially after she won Bengal for the third time, defeating the BJP in a direct fight.
Banerjee, too, plans a mega rally when the Covid wave subsides, and is likely to invite leaders from non-BJP parties who congratulated her after the victory.