Bengal Congress hints at going solo in 2019 Lok Sabha election as leaders feel alliances will erode party's base in future

Kolkata: The Congress unit in West Bengal is in favour of fighting the coming Lok Sabha election "alone" in the state despite the party forging alliances with different regional outfits in other parts of the country in its bid to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The view has been communicated to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the final call on the issue would be taken by the AICC leadership, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) president Somen Mitra told PTI.

The Congress has already been hit with the exodus of its elected representatives to the Trinamool Congress. The Bengal unit of the Congress feels that an alliance with either the  Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) or the Trinamool Congress will not serve the "long-term" interests of the party.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

Such an eventuality will only further erode the party's base in the state though it had tasted success in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh by forging alliances with regional parties, the JD(S) and the Samajwadi Party, the Congress leaders said.

"During my meeting with our party president Rahul Gandhi, I had clearly said that it would be good if we fight the Lok Sabha election alone. We may not win many seats but our party will continue to exist in Bengal in the future," Mitra said.

"Forging an alliance with the Trinamool Congress might give us more seats, but it will also ensure that the Congress will cease to exist in Bengal as the TMC is more keen on poaching our MLAs and elected representatives," Mitra said.

Senior Congress leaders like P Chidambaram have advocated state-wise alliances to defeat the BJP at the Centre.

According to state Congress leaders, aligning with the CPM-led Left Front will not serve any purpose as it will not ensure winning seats as the Left itself is facing a rout in the state.

"So we have told the Congress president that it is better for the future of the party in Bengal that we fight the Lok Sabha election alone. Doing so may not ensure too many seats, but it will at least guarantee revival of our organisation in the long run," AICC member Subhankar Sarkar said.

Congress sources, who did not wish to be named, said one of main reasons behind the decision against aligning with the TMC is that the party is not very sure if it would be offered more than four LS seats, it presently has in the state, by the ruling party.

"Everyone aspires to contest the election on a ticket of the party he has been working with. But due to alliances with the TMC in 2001, 2009 and 2011 and the CPM in 2016, our organisation has suffered badly. We could neither offer seats to our party leaders, nor could we put up our symbols in various seats. That has badly damaged our organisation," a senior state Congress leader said.

The argument against going for an alliance with the CPM is lack of consistency on the part of the Left Front to remain in an alliance as it had unilaterally walked out of the alliance in 2016 after its defeat in the state assembly polls.

There are some leaders within the state unit like Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, the Congress MP from Malda South and the brother of late party stalwart ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury, his niece Mausam Benazir Noor, also an MP from the same district, who are strongly advocating the Congress-TMC alliance to stop the march of the BJP in West Bengal.

Former PCC president and MP Pradip Bhattacharya, who is also chairman of the party co-ordination committee, agreed that the mood of the state leadership is to go alone in the polls.

He said, the Assembly election results in five states and the outcome of the all party meeting on 22 November in New Delhi will be crucial and play a deciding factor while chalking out Congress' strategy.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the TMC's martyrs day rally on 21 July had set the target of winning all the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

"We don't need anybody in Bengal. We can fight and win on our own," a senior TMC leader said.

CPM central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said all secular and democratic forces should come together in order to defeat the BJP and the TMC.

Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, the TMC had won 34 seats, Congress four and the CPM and the BJP two each in 2014.
The four seats which elected Congress Members of Parliament are in Malda and Murshidabad districts, which were traditional strongholds of Congress but have been penetrated by the TMC.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Congress had contested 14 seats in the state and the TMC in 27 seats while the SUCI in one seat. The Congress had then won six seats, the TMC had 19 seats and the SUCI (C) one.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh has mocked Congress, saying that the Congress will not be able to win a single seat in the state this time whether it forges an alliance or not.


Updated Date: Nov 13, 2018 13:01 PM

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