The Congress’s Bengal appointment could resonate in Parliament which begins next week after the first setback to opposition unity came with a no-show by them for the deputy chairman election in Rajya Sabha.
But now, all eyes are on the post of deputy speaker in Lok Sabha as both Trinamool Congress and Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have made it clear that the post needs to be filled. However, there could be another embarrassment or roadblock for the Opposition here too, the genesis being the bad blood between the Bengal units of both the parties.
Just after the stormy CWC meeting, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had initiated a meeting of chief ministers on the issue of economy, GST, NEET and JEE. The bonhomie between Sonia Gandhi and Banerjee was apparent but it doesn’t seem to be lasting long because of the announcement of Chowdhury as Pradesh chief ahead of Bengal polls.
The post fell vacant after his predecessor Somen Mitra died recently. Chowdhury is known to be stridently against the TMC and in fact, it was his suggestion to Rahul Gandhi to tie up with the Left for the state polls the last time. The results were a disaster for the Left-Congress combine and Trinamool, and especially Banerjee, has never forgiven this.
It’s also well known that unlike with Sonia, Banerjee doesn’t share a good equation with Rahul Gandhi. In fact, she has gone on record to say that Rahul Gandhi would need some more time and she is more comfortable doing business with Sonia Gandhi. There have been occasions when Banerjee has attended all party meetings called by Sonia Gandhi but has given a skip when it was not attended by her.
This apart, Rahul Gandhi’s fondness for Left leader Sitaram Yechury has also irked Banerjee and TMC. It’s also known that Congress was disappointed that Yechury could not get support for re-election to Rajya Sabha as his own party did not support him. Rahul Gandhi baiters in the Congress are upset with the fact that he considers Yechury to be his guru and seeks his advice more than from his party colleagues.
Things seem tough now as Chowdhury is also leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, which means he needs to reach out to other parties in the opposition. But as PCC chief, this brings him in direct conflict. Sources say Chowdhury’s supporters feel that the argument that he cannot be both PCC chief and leader in Lok Sabha is fallacious as Pranab Mukherjee has earlier held both posts.
But Chowdhury’s critics are quick to point out that there is a vast difference between the two leaders. The message with the appointment of Chowdhury as PCC chief is clear to the Trinamool. But this is bound to spill beyond the state. Congress hopes that with the maximum number of MPs it has among opposition parties, it could and should have its say and choice in the deputy speaker post.
However, the Trinamool is unlikely to allow this, given the fact that a Banerjee-hater has been made PCC chief. Also, most parties in the opposition like YSR Congress, SP, and even the DMK are not happy with the Congress style and could ensure that a Congress choice is scuttled.
As a senior TMC leader said, “The choice of Chowdhury shows that Congress doesn’t want to show the same softening towards the TMC as Mamata showed towards them recently."
In politics, for a long term plan, it pays sometimes to give up on immediate and short-term ambitions. The Congress, it seems, is yet to learn this game.