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‘Capture’ jab at Mamata and Left

Calcutta, Dec. 19: The Congress today tried to send a message to the Left Front and perhaps to ally Mamata Banerjee by mentioning the “politics of capture and recapture of areas” in its plenary resolution.

The resolution said: “The Congress is alarmed over increased instances of attempts to control and capture areas and zones by violent means and intimidation. Politics based on capture and recapture of areas and attempts to create safe zones by violence against political opponents and general masses must be defeated.”

Asked if the resolution was also aimed at sending a message across to the Trinamul Congress, not just the ruling Left Front, K. Keshava Rao, the Congress leader in charge of Bengal, parried. “We are very much against the politics of violence let loose by the CPM in Bengal. But at the same time, Congress workers have had some bitter experiences about our alliance partner. We want a more cordial gesture from Trinamul.”

Rao did not elaborate on what he meant by the Congress’s bitter experiences with Trinamul. But Congress sources in Delhi said the party had not forgotten the attack on Youth Congress general secretary Usha Naidu and Congress president Manas Bhuniya at Khejuri in East Midnapore when they had gone to address rallies in July.

“Raoji was briefed about how Trinamul supporters had abused and pushed Manas and thrown stones at his car while he was returning from a rally in Khejuri along with Naidu,” a state Congress leader said.

Some state Congress leaders said Trinamul’s anger was directed at the Congress because it wanted to make inroads in Khejuri.

“Khejuri was a CPM stronghold even after 2008 panchayat polls. But after Trinamul’s Sisir Adhikari won the Contai parliamentary seat that covers Khejuri, the party drove the CPM out. So, its ire against us was genuine when we had gone there to address party meetings,” said Bengal Congress general secretary Maya Ghosh.

Similarly, in Nadia, after Trinamul won all three Lok Sabha seats, the Congress has found the going tough in the area that was its base before the general elections.

“We are pained because Trinamul, being an ally of a 125-year-old party, is trying to bring back the politics of capture and recapture, which the CPM started after it came to power in 1977,” a senior AICC leader said in Delhi.

Bhuniya, who is in Delhi, said over phone that he had mentioned “Trinamul’s attack on Congress workers” at the plenary. “During my short speech at the session, I said that our workers are being attacked by those of the Trinamul Congress that accused us once of being the B-team of the CPM,” he added.

He said the lines in the political resolution were aimed at “sending a message to Trinamul to shun violence”, not just the Left.

Later, a Bengal Congress delegation led by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and Rao met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to apprise her of the “state of affairs in the Bengal Congress”.

“We tried to impress upon Soniaji that our dignity and self-respect are non-negotiable. We want an alliance with Trinamul but not at the cost of self-respect. Moreover, we told her that the 294 seats for the coming Assembly polls should be properly distributed between the alliance partners, unlike what had happened during last year’s Lok Sabha polls. In the Lok Sabha polls, we had contested only 14 seats out of the 42,” Bhuniya said.

Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi was more vocal against Trinamul at the plenary. “I said at length on how Trinamul is not inviting our MPs to government programmes in Bengal. I also raised the question on why we could not organise joint movements with our ally through the year against the ruling CPM,” Das Munshi said over phone.

A Trinamul general secretary, asked about the Congress plenary resolution, said: “We don’t believe in violence. But if Congress workers attack our activists, should we sit idle?”

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