The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pranab flip-flop on contest
- Murshidabad Congress activists force party chief to change mind

Calcutta, March 24: Bowing to pressure from Murshidabad party functionaries, state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee today changed his mind about contesting from the Jangipur Lok Sabha seat and asked party workers to resume canvassing.

Supporters had begun erasing graffiti after Mukherjee pulled out of the fray citing “national compulsion” three days ago. He had called up state Congress vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya and Murshidabad party strongman Adhir Chowdhury from Delhi to inform them of his compulsion.

“But today I am overwhelmed by requests from Murshidabad-based party workers and functionaries who insist on my contesting from Jangipur. I must convey their sentiments to Congress president Sonia Gandhi when I call on her on Monday. I have no problem if I get a green signal from her,” Mukherjee said this afternoon at his South Calcutta residence.

On his return from Delhi, over a dozen party leaders, including two MLAs and five block Congress presidents from Murshidabad, laid a virtual siege to Mukherjee’s house, demanding that he must not opt out of the fray at this juncture. They also held a day-long marathon meeting with Mukherjee to impress on him that the party rank and file would be at a loss if he opted out now.

“It’s a great relief for us that Pranabda has agreed to contest when we insisted on his entering the fray. We will now rewrite wall graffiti which we had cleaned up a little bit after having heard about his earlier decision to pull out,” said Humayun Reja, Congress MLA from Aurangabad.

Chowdhury, Murshidabad district Congress chief and MP from Behrampore, appeared confident about Mukherjee contesting the polls. “I have heard from AICC sources that Pranabda is the lone party nominee for the Jangipur seat despite his busy schedule in Delhi. We are attaching much importance to it as he is entering the fray for a Lok Sabha seat after nearly two decades,” he said.

Chowdhury is confident of wresting the seat from the CPM this time if Mukherjee becomes a candidate.

Welcoming the development, former state party chief Somen Mitra said Mukherjee’s re-think will boost the morale of party workers in Murshidabad. “We had completed 80 per cent of wall graffiti. It would be really embarrassing for us if he did not contest,” he added.

Rebel Trinamul Congress MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, who is seeking re-election from Calcutta Northwest as an Independent after being denied a party ticket, will formally appeal to the Congress tomorrow for support.

“I want to send my message to state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee through the media,” Bandopadhyay said tonight. Mukherjee had earlier said the Congress would back Bandopadhyay without any condition.

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