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The Pradip mystery

Calcutta, Feb. 14: Former state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya’s absence from yesterday’s programme to welcome his successor Adhir Chowdhury has prompted many in the party to question the move to appoint the veteran in the first place.

“I cannot remember any party event in the recent past at (state Congress headquarters) Bidhan Bhavan that Pradipda missed. It appears he stayed away yesterday to avoid embarrassment. But his no-show was a face loss for us,” a senior Congress leader said.

The past three years for the Congress in Bengal have been the worst for the party, with leaders defecting to Trinamul in droves.

“Pradipda is a nice person. But what had happened to the state Congress under his leadership was inevitable as everyone knew he couldn’t lead a movement,” another senior state Congress leader said. “We have no clue why he had been made the PCC chief,” he added.

Bhattacharya, 68, was appointed the state Congress chief in June 2011, a fortnight after then Congress president Manas Bhuniya was inducted into the state cabinet.

Sources in the state Congress said today that the high command had chosen Bhattacharya as it wanted to keep Mamata Banerjee, an alliance partner then, in good humour.

“Other contenders like Adhirda and Deepa Das Munshi were not chosen as they were known for their staunch anti-Mamata stand,” a source said.

Bhattacharya, sources said, had lobbied for the top slot. Although he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bengal in August 2011 and later made the president of the state Intuc, Bhattacharya continued as the PCC chief as the high command ignored reservations of state leaders.

Even as Trinamul activists allegedly began attacking Congress supporters and tried to woo and coerce its workers, the party under Bhattacharya’s leadership did little to arrest the slide in its support base.

The Congress fared badly in subsequent elections.

“There was no logic in allowing Pradipda to continue,” a source said.

Now that Chowdhury has replaced Bhattacharya, Congress workers are expecting a turnaround as the junior railway minister has vowed to organise a sustained movement against Trinamul.