For Sonia and the dissidents: Dr Adhir and Mr Chowdhury

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  • Published 21.04.11

Salar (Murshidabad), April 20: Afternoon did not show the evening. Adhir Chowdhury canvassed for the Congress in Sonia Gandhi’s presence at 2.15pm, only to rally behind a party dissident hours later.

At Murshidabad’s Salar, Adhir appealed to the people to vote for the Congress, never for once mentioning the alliance or the four Trinamul Congress candidates contesting from the district.

Meeting over, the Behrampore MP rushed to Bhagabangola’s Ranitala, 100km away, to campaign for one of the Independents he is backing against Trinamul.

“I will continue campaigning for you,” he told Syed Alamgir, the Congress rebel contesting the seat.

Earlier in the day, speaking from a stage where Sonia, Pranab Mukherjee, Shakeel Ahmed and Manas Bhuniya were present, Adhir had said: “The winds of change have been blowing across Murshidabad much earlier than it hit the state.”

Suggesting that the Congress too had a role to play in turning the tide in the Opposition’s favour, Adhir said: “In the last two Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had won all three seats in this district. So, vote for all the Congress candidates in the district.”

If the leader did not specify who he meant by “all the Congress candidates in the district”, he was more explicit at the rally in support of Alamgir. “I will continue to campaign for you (Independents). This afternoon, I was with Soniaji at another rally and I spoke to her. I have come straight to Bhagabangola from that rally. Don’t forget that the Pradesh Congress Committee has suspended you but you are the unanimous choice of the district Congress committee,” the Behrampore MP said.

“Only, you don’t have the party symbol. Frankly, I am not thinking about punishment. Now that action has been taken you, I may also be punished,” Adhir said, referring to the suspension handed to 19 dissidents for contesting as Independents.

He said he was “confident” that Alamgir would win the elections. “After his victory, I will take him to Soniaji. The party has suspended you till April 23 (the day Murshidabad goes to the polls). But from April 24, you will all return home,” Adhir said, hinting that he would facilitate the return of the four Independents in his district to the Congress fold.

Even though Adhir said the dissidents had been suspended till April 23, the high command has not yet specified any such time frame. In the 2006 Assembly elections, the Murshidabad strongman had backed two Independents against the official Congress candidates. After the duo won, Adhir had ensured that they were taken back into the party.

This evening, he addressed another rally in support of Alamgir in another part of Bhagabangola.

Adhir’s close aide and district Congress general secretary Ashok Das said: “We consider the Independents to be Congress candidates.”

Yesterday, Adhir had skipped the campaign meetings of Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad in the district. But today, he arrived at the venue of Sonia’s rally at 1pm, half an hour before the Congress president was scheduled to arrive.

Adhir welcomed Sonia after she got off her helicopter. Ahmed, who has expressed his displeasure over Adhir’s campaign for the rebels, made no mention of the issue at the Salar meeting.

But many in the crowd said they did not support the Behrampore MP’s open support for the Independents. “I do not support what Adhir is doing. He should have toed the high command’s line and campaigned for the Trinamul candidates too. He has done wrong by backing Independents in Hariharpara, Jalangi, Sagardighi and Bhagabangola, the four seats where Trinamul has fielded its candidates,” said Manwar Hossain, 50.

Twenty-year-old Chumki Khatoon said: “I am not associated with politics. But I understand this much that the party is above an individual. I don’t support what Adhir Chowdhury is doing.”