Kolkata | West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra has said that it would be better for his party to go it alone in the state in the next Lok Sabha election as the ruling TMC “lacks honest intentions” as an anti-BJP force.
Majority of the state Congress leaders are in favour of going solo in the polls even if it meant failure of the party to win even a single seat in Bengal, he said when asked about a possible alignment with the TMC or the Left for the general election.
Mitra, a veteran Congressman who had moved to the TMC, returned to his parent party and took over the presidentship of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) after a gap of two decades. The Congress should prepare itself to fight alone against the BJP as well as the TMC in the state, he asserted.
“If you look at the past events, you will see that the TMC lacks honest intentions as an anti-BJP force. At the national level, whenever Congress called for any massive anti-BJP campaign, the TMC either evaded it or has sent one MP to register its attendance,” Mitra told PTI in an interview.
The TMC raised a hue and cry over demonetisation, but “mellowed down” after its two MPs were arrested by CBI in the chit fund scam, he alleged. The ruling party has also “maintained silence” on the Rafale jet deal, too, Mitra noted.
“We have told our party president Rahul Gandhi that we are in favour of fighting alone. He has said that we should work to improve our strength. But the final decision will be taken by the AICC and we will accept it,” the state Congress president clarified. Talking about the possibility of an alliance with the Left Front, he said it wouldn’t be a “wise option”.
“The CPI(M) had unilaterally walked out of the alliance after the 2016 Assembly election. Also, the Left allies are not in favour of an adjustment with the Congress.” Currently, the Congress has four Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal. The party, he said, has suffered “badly” due to alliances with the TMC in 2001, 2009 and 2011, and with the CPI(M) in 2016.
“We could then neither offer seats to our leaders nor could we put up our symbols in certain constituencies. That has badly damaged our organisation,” he claimed. Mitra also blamed the TMC’s policy of “poaching” elected representatives of the Congress for decrease in the party’s strength in Bengal and the growth of “communal forces”.
Noting there was a Congress government in Bengal till 1977, he said “Did you ever see Congress chief minister’s fanning fundamentalism or communalism in Bengal like the present (TMC) government is doing? The TMC is solely responsible for growth of divisive forces”. Had TMC not taken the path of minority appeasement, Bengal would never have witnessed the rise of “majority communalism”, Mitra said.
To questions about targets set by the TMC and the BJP for the election, Mitra said his party will not follow suit. “I am not an astrologer,” he quipped. The TMC has set a target of winning all 42 Lok Sabha sets in Bengal, and the saffron party is eyeing 22 seats.
On strengthening Congress organisation in Bengal, Mitra said he was trying to bring back MLAs and the elected representatives who switched over to the TMC. “Right now, I am trying to strengthen the booth- and block-level organization. Once that is done, we can easily expand our base in the state,” he said. He, however, acknowledged that a “daunting task” awaits him.
“We (PCC) are presently assessing the ground situation – there are several booths and blocks where we don’t have any presence. We are trying to fix these issues by making personal connections with our party workers and old timers,” Mitra added.