After about a gap of nine years, West Bengal Pradesh Congress is once again on the verge of a vertical split following the Congress chairperson, Sonia Gandhi'sunflinching support to the CPI(M)'sindustrial policy and the state government'stough measures to suppress farmers? agitations in Singur and Nandigram. The news about cordial meetings of the Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with Sonia and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh in Delhi during the first week of April has created a stir in the rank and files of the Bengal Congress. The state Congress leaders and workers are not only demoralised, they are now openly blaming Pranab Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, two heavy weight Union Ministers from Bengal, for their failure to project the people'smood in the state before the party high command in Delhi following the Nandigram carnage on March 14.
There is a general feeling among the Congress workers and supporters in Bengal that the two senior Union Ministers from Bengal are actually stooges of the CPI(M). It is no secret that at least Pranab Mukherjee has won the last parliamentary election for the first time in his long political career from Murshidabad district with tacit support extended to him by the Marxist party. The CPI(M) did not field its own candidate against Pranab Mukherjee and left the seat to its ally RSP in the Left Front to contest.
The state Congress had experienced a major split last time on January 1, 1998 when Mamata Banerjee left the Congress with her followers and set up Trinamool Congress in protest against the party high command'spolicy of appeasement towards the CPI(M). Since then, the Bengal Congress has lost all its political credibility as an anti-Left Opposition party. Mamata Banerjee and her party Trinamool Congress has emerged as the main anti-Left force in Bengal after the state Assembly elections in 2001.
The situation has further deteriorated after a drubbing of the Congress in the last Assembly elections in 2006. Union Minister, Pranab Mukherjee resigned from the post of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) president accepting the party'sdismal result in the Assembly elections. Since then, the Congress high command could not find a leader to run the party'sstate outfit in West Bengal. In fact, intra-party squabbles have left the Bengal Congress into a mere ?signboard party? in the absence of a president. The party is now riddled with several groups and factions each led by local leaders. Among these warring groups, the most prominent are the groups led by P.R. Das Munshi and Subrata Mukherjee duo and their political adversary Somen Mitra. Most Congress MPs, MLAs and district leaders of the state have taken shelter under the umbrella of these two main rival factions in the party.
As the waves of anti-Left movement are gaining momentum everyday in Bengal after the Nandigram massacre, it is now a matter of time to occur another split in the state Congress. The faction in the state Congress, led by former PCC president, Somen Mitra, has called for a public rally of Congress workers and supporters in Kolkata on April 21 to form a separate regional party on the line of Mamata'sTrinamool Congress. Somen Mitra'smove to split the state Congress and to form a separate party has received full support from the Trinamool chief, Mamata Banerjee who has extended invitation to Mitra to join the ?Save Agricultural Land Committee?, a conglomeration of anti-CPI(M) forces spearheading the current peasants? movement in the state. Strangely, Mamata had left the Congress party in 1998 in protest against Somen Mitra'sproximity to the CPI(M) leaders.
In a scathing attack to the party high command Mitra said: ?We are told not to disturb the CPI(M) at the time when Samajwadi Party and the PMK of Tamil Nadu have withdrawn their support from the UPA government. We are reminded that the Left support is now the only lifeline left for the survival of the UPA government. There is no doubt that the party high command is in a panic following the re-emergence of the BJP and its NDA allies in the recent Assembly and municipal elections held in some northern states and in Maharastra. In fact, the support of the CPI(M) is now more important to the party high command than the existence and credibility of the state PCC?.
Mitra said: ?I have travelled from one end to other end of West Bengal during the past three months to know and gauge the mood of my party workers after our failure to lead the agitations in Singur and in Nandigram. It is shocking to learn that the Congress party is now hated all over the state. The people in Bengal are angry because our two party ministers in the UPA government did not resign after the Nandigram massacre. It is a shame to us that when the Left intellectuals in the state are resigning en-masse in protest against the killings of innocent poor villagers in Nandigram our two Union ministers are holding secret parleys with Prakash Karat and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Delhi to defuse anti-communist movement in West Bengal. The credibility of the Congress as anti-Left force has touched the lowest ebb in Bengal today?.
(The writer can be contacted at Vishwa Samvad Kendra, Kolkata 36A, Sahitya Parishad Street (Flat-F/1), Kolkata-700 006 E-mail: [email protected])