Even as all political parties in West Bengal are gearing up for the Bhabanipur bypoll, the Congress is going to watch the match from the galleries as the Grand Old Party hasn’t put its hat in the ring. This has the party disappointed and the feeling of defeat was evident in member of Parliament Pradip Bhattacharya’s remarks on the upcoming polls.
Bhattacharya told News18, “Congress is absent in the ‘vote bazar’." There is no war room strategy meet, no election plan meet, no orders given for banners and festoons — things usually associated with an upcoming election. The press conference in which Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury declared the Congress will not contest in Bhabanipur, his body language too showed that the party felt demotivated.
This is the first time since Independence that the Congress isn’t contesting elections, and this hasn’t ever happened for bypolls either.
The Congress finds itself in a precarious situation, being unable to field candidates in Jangipur and Shamshergunj in Murshidabad, once the party’s stronghold. These two seats are going to the polls along with Bhabanipur. In both seats, nominations were filed after the death of incumbent candidates and the Election Commission will be conducting the polls on the basis of those alternative nominations.
In Jangipur, the Congress had left the seat for its Left alliance partner. RSP’s Jane Alam Miyan is now the candidate who filed his nomination in the place of Pradip Nandi of RSP who died of Covid-19. Congress candidate from Rezaul Haque died and his brother, asked by the Congress to contest, declined the offer.
Murshidabad and Malda were always known as traditional Congress bastions. Congress workers, though mostly tight-lipped, but are saying that it is demotivating that they are not in the match even in Murshidabad. Though TMC won both Samsergunj and Jangipur last election, Congress has a good track record in these two seats. Murshidabad till now was a considered bastion Chowdhury.
The Jangipur assembly seat falls under the Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency that was once the seat of Pranab Mukherjee followed by his son Abhijit Mukherjee. TMC’s Khalilur Raheman defeated Abhijit Mukherjee during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Manoj Chakraborty, a Congress leader from Murshidabad said, “Things go wrong at times, but am confident things will change very soon. There is no scope of demotivation, we will work hard."
Maybe the Congress will gain nationally from this move, but in West Bengal, their existence is at stake. According to instructions from the high command, the Congress can’t even go for a campaign for the Left. It’s undoubtedly a bad time for the ground-level workers of the party. In the last Assembly polls, the Congress won no seats, and now in this bypoll they are out of the battlefield.