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WB polls: Family feud, dissent in Cong stronghold
Partymen are upset over the way the legacy of late stalwart ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury is being squandered.
Malda: It's a family affair for the Congress in its stronghold Malda. But blood ties have also spawned family feuds. A section of partymen is upset the way the legacy of late Congress stalwart A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury is being squandered. Popularly known as 'Barkatda', Ghani Khan not only flooded this northern district of Bengal with developmental projects but turned this town into a business hub during his several stints in the central cabinet.
The district was considered a fiefdom of Ghani Khan. Even after his death in 2004, Congress politics in Malda revolved around his dynasty. Ghani Khan's brother Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury and niece Mausam Benazir Noor are the two Lok Sabha members from the district. Abu Naser Khan Choudhury, another brother of Barkat, is the legislator from the family's pocketborough Sujapur.
But all is not well in the family. Malda, where the Congress had performed creditably during a substantial part of the 34-year Left rule, saw the Trinamool Congress make significant dent in last year's civic polls. The Congress had to lean on Mamata Banerjee to form the civic board.
The cracks in the family emerged in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when the Congress nominated the young Mausam for the newly created Malda North seat, denying her maternal uncle Abu Naser. District Congress president Abu Hashem had then sided with his brother, and both cried foul.
Mausam's huge victory only intensified the family tiff, with the Kotwali family getting unofficially divided into two poles - one led by Abu Naseer and Abu Hasem and the other spearheaded by Mausam, who took over as the state Youth Congress chief last month.
The family troubles resurfaced during the selection of Congress candidates for the nine seats in Malda district. Abu Hasem forwarded the names of his son Ishaque Khan for Baishabnagar and niece Sahnaz Kadri for Mothabari.
The Congress agreed to give ticket for the son but rejected Kadri's candidature. Mausam Noor's close associate Shabina Yesmin was instead fielded from Mothabari. This prompted Kadri to field herself as independent from Mothabari. Two other district Congress leaders also jumped into the fray as independents against the Trinamool. Kadri and the other two rebels have been suspended from the party.
The district has 12 assembly constituencies, out of which the Congress is fighting in nine seats, leaving three to the Trinamool. The family divide had come into the open even earlier, with Abu Hasem initially opposing any teaming up with Trinamool and Mausam strongly backing the alliance.
The family feuds and perceived nepotism in selecting candidates have made a large chunk of Congressmen disgruntled. "If things go on like this, we will be forced to join the Trinamool in the future. They can't see beyond their family," said a Congress leader.
This may spark another exodus from the party after former district Congress chief and Barkat's close associate Sabitri Mitra broke ranks and joined the Trinamool last year. Mitra, now the district Trinamool chief, is also the party candidate from Manikchak.
But queering Mitra's pitch, outgoing Congress legislator from Manikchak Ramprabesh Mandal has filed his nomination as independent. Trinamool leader Goutam Chakraborty also has to contend with a dissident Congress candidate Al Biruni, fighting as an independent candidate from Malatipur.
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