Somen Mitra's death leaves Bengal Cong unit rudderless; search on for new chief

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(Eds: Upgrading) Kolkata, July 31 (PTI) The death of West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra has not just left a deep void in the party but triggered an unprecedented crisis, with the leadership now at its wit's end trying to choose a successor who would steer the party in the 2021 state polls.

Mitra breathed his last at a Kolkata hospital in the early hours of Thursday. He was 78.

According to sources, lack of Young Turks in the party has left the leadership with just a handful of hackneyed options.

At present, there are only three leaders in terms of seniority who could be handed over the baton -- Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, both of whom have served as PCC chief, and Abdul Mannan, the opposition leader in the state assembly.

'It is unlikely that Adhir Chowdhury will take charge as the state unit chief as he already holds a very important position in the Lok Sabha. Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharya are the two possible options, with Rajya Sabha MP having an edge as he had served as the PCC chief in the past.

Let's see what happens,' a senior Congress leader told PTI.

The party's West Bengal in-charge, Gaurav Gogoi, who arrived here on Thursday night, is likely to hold a meeting with the state leaders on the matter.

'The Bengal unit of the party has never had any dearth of good leaders in the past. However, there is no such promising young leader in the organisation who could helm the state unit,' the Congress leader said.

Most Congress leaders known for their organisational or oratory skills have switched over to TMC in the last two decades, leaving a vacuum in the state unit, he said.

The West Bengal Congress, under the leadership of Mitra, has aligned with the CPI(M)-led Left Front to take on the ruling TMC and the resurgent BJP in the state.

Mitra's loss comes at a time when the party was trying to provide a third alternative to the people of the state by forging an understanding with the Left parties, ahead of next year's assembly polls.

According to Congress sources, whosoever takes over as PCC chief also needs to take forward the alliance. PTI PNT RMS RMS RMS