Putting to rest all speculations, the Congress party today announced that it will not field a candidate against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the upcoming Bhabanipur bypoll, which she is contesting later this month. Nor will Congress campaign against him.
The Left Front, which said earlier today that the Congress is ready for it if it does not contest, is yet to react to this latest Congress position. The two were in alliance for the West Bengal Assembly elections held earlier this year. Both drew a blank.
West Bengal Congress chief and MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told NB, “The Congress feels that it can indirectly help the BJP in some way by fielding a candidate against the chief minister and the high command does not want to do so.”
The decision from New Delhi came a day after Mr Choudhary, who had earlier advocated not to field a candidate as a courtesy, said many state party leaders did not agree with him.
The Congress leader had said at a press conference in Kolkata yesterday, “Most of our members were in favor of contesting against the Trinamool. We finally asked the high command to take a decision.
Addressing the media in his constituency Behrampur in Murshidabad district at around 8 pm today, he said, “The top leadership of the party has decided not to contest against Mamata Banerjee. We will not campaign against her either.”
Congress’s clear position has come to the fore amid growing friendship with Trinamool.
On 28 July, Ms Banerjee met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and urged opposition unity ahead of the 2024 general elections. Recently, she participated in a virtual meeting of all opposition parties convened by Ms Gandhi, aimed at building momentum for the Lok Sabha elections.
The Chief Minister urged all the parties to work towards defeating the BJP and proposed to constitute a core group to work out a joint programme.
The Bhawanipur by-election will be held on September 30. Ms Banerjee is fighting it because she has to be elected to the state assembly by November 4 – within six months of taking over as chief minister, which she did on May 5.
She lost the Nandigram assembly seat to her former ally BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in the assembly elections held earlier this year.
Bhawanipore has been a Trinamool stronghold and Ms Banerjee herself has won the election twice before. This year, he decided to contest from Nandigram and nominated veteran Trinamool leader Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay as the candidate in his former constituency.
Soon after winning the election, Mr. Chattopadhyay, the state’s agriculture minister, resigned as the MLA of Bhabnipur, making way for his boss.