Congress leader Anand Sharma’s questioning of his party’s alliance with Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui-led Indian Secular Front (ISF) in West Bengal may have been strongly rebutted by West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary. But in that rebuttal lies a hidden worry.
When asked for an explanation by Sharma, Chowdhary said those decisions were taken by the Congress top leadership and had their consent. With this reaction, not many noticed that the Murshidabad MP had distanced himself from the decision.
The reason is simple. ISF may turn out to be what AAP has become for Congress. An alternative to the Congress. In several states, AAP has already set up shop to be the counterparty to Congress. In Murshidabad, Malda and Dinajpur, where the ISF is demanding seats from Congress, this is the worry for Chowdhary.
Murshidabad alone has about 60 per cent of Muslims votes. Eventually, ISF would eat into the Congress’ Muslim vote bank. Hence during the seat-sharing talks, sources say that Chowdhary made it clear to the central leadership that while he accepted the ISF-Congress-Left alliance being beneficial, giving the ISF the number of seats it wanted in the area would be inviting trouble. Unlike his uncle Pirzada Toha Siddiqui, who is content with giving support to Mamata Bannerjee and the influence it will bring him, nephew Abbas Siddiqui nurtures political ambitions and boasts that he will be the kingmaker.
Abbas is aware that Mamata Bannerjee won’t allow any new political front to grow and hence for Abbas there was no choice but to float his own party. An alliance with the Left and the Congress helps him to push his ambitions. In case of a hung or if Mamata wins with a slender margin, it’s quite possible Abbas Siddiqui lends support to her but not before extracting a pound of flesh.
The astute Chowdhary is aware of this. There is no guarantee that he will continue to enjoy the almost free run he has in Murshidabad. Substantial Muslim voters are shifting away from Congress to newer options. And hence Chowdhary seeing the writing on the wall, wants to stop the ISF from spreading its tentacles in his fiefdom.