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Eye on bypoll, Cong to go soft on govt

Behrampore, Oct. 2: Bengal Congress minder Shakeel Ahmed today urged party workers in Murshidabad to avoid “a virulent attack” on the Mamata Banerjee government, the move apparently prompted by the chief minister’s decision not to field a Trinamul nominee for the Jangipur bypoll.

The seat fell vacant after Pranab Mukherjee became President in July. His son Abhijit is the Congress candidate for the October 10 bypoll.

“Our party will fight in the interests of the people. We will not attack any individual politically but instead fight for the cause of the people. There must not be any virulent attack on the government,” Ahmed told a news conference at the Murshidabad Congress office in Behrampore.

Sources said Ahmed, who is in Murshidabad to campaign for the election, was “angered” by Congress workers burning the chief minister’s effigy at a rally in Hazra yesterday. “Our workers should not have resorted to such tactics. We don’t approve of such things,” he said.

The AICC leader announced that three Congress leaders — MP Mohammad Azharuddin, actor-turned-MP Raj Babbar and Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad — would address public meetings in Jangipur as part of the campaign.

“Azharuddin will lead a campaign on October 4 and Babbar will address a gathering the next day. Azad will campaign for Abhijit on October 7,” Ahmed added.

Ahmed said “star campaigner” Babbar would help the party consolidate its position in Jangipur.

The state Congress, local leaders said, is of the opinion that campaigns by Azharuddin and Azad would stand Abhijit in good stead in Jangipur, where over 70 per cent of the voters is from the minority community.

“An intensive campaign by Azharuddin and Azad will help us consolidate our Muslim vote bank in Jangipur,” said S.M.S. Haider, the Congress’s minority cell chief.

He added that leaders from the minority cell’s different wings would also campaign for Abhijit from tomorrow.

State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya and chief spokesperson Abdul Mannan would campaign in Jangipur in the next three days.

Three district presidents from Calcutta — Pradip Ghosh from central Calcutta, Santosh Pathak from Burrabazar and Mala Roy from south Calcutta — will also participate in the campaign in a day or two.