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Rahul Gandhi forces state Congress party leaders to take the electoral test

Without an alliance with Trinamool most leaders back out fearing defeat

Gulf News

Kolkata: Rahul Gandhi has met the state leaders and has ruled out any possibility of an alliance with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and has asked all senior leaders to take the electoral test.

“The Congress vice-president feels that alliances have cost the party dearly in Tamil Nadu and Bengal,” said a leader present in the meeting.

“He is severely opposed to an alliance or seat-sharing with TMC considering it has only led to the erosion of party in the state. TMC has only gained from it and are now sending us feelers to ensure that the minority vote is assured,” said a state Congress leader present at the meeting.

The appointment of junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury as the Bengal unit chief ahead of the elections is being seen as an indication of Rahul’s opinion against an alliance with TMC holding sway. Chowdhury is a known Mamata critic and an advocate of going it alone in Bengal.

Congress leaders said Gandhi was reluctant for a tie-up because TMC quit UPA II in 2012 and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee attacked the government non-stop after that.

However, none of the state leader has committed them to Gandhi’s demand on contesting elections. “He has asked all our senior leaders to contest but none are willing as most fear a route and hence may have to lose position and party following the same. Though most have cited health and age as reason for their unwillingness,” said a party insider.

“We have expressed our opinion but if he wishes we will contest since our loyalty to the party is unquestionable,” said a state Congress leader. Privately, though most sitting Congress Members of Parliament (MP) are said to be in favour of an alliance.

The panic within the Congress party is palpable as former cricketer Azharuddin who is said to be contesting from Bengal has gone to the extent of seeking Banerjee’s help to secure his electoral success.

Sources say, Azharuddin had recently had sent a text message to Banerjee asking her not to field a candidate against him. However, TMC sources said, party general secretary Mukul Roy later got back to him only to explain that TMC was in no position to go for any electoral understanding with the Congress in the upcoming polls.