The INDIA coalition’s gesture of keeping a seat vacant for TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee at its coordination committee meeting on Wednesday has not gone down well with the West Bengal unit of the Congress, once again exposing the conflicting interests of the anti-BJP alliance at the national and state-level.
Leaders of the INDIA bloc, including Congress’s central leadership, had kept a seat vacant for Banerjee in a symbol of solidarity with the TMC leader who was called for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the West Bengal teacher recruitment scam.
Objecting to the gesture, Bengal Congress leader Kaustav Bagchi wrote to Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal, urging him not to show solidarity “to thieves”.
“Thousands of Congress workers in the State of West Bengal have been relentlessly fighting against this tyrannical regime. Standing in solidarity with the tyrants and scamsters are an insult to the party workers in the State of West Bengal,” Bagchi wrote.
“Please do not stand in solidarity with those people who always had attempted to decimate our party in the State Of West Bengal, looted the State of West Bengal, mercilessly throttled the democracy in the State,” he added.
The letter also justified the ED summons for Banerjee. “The investigations pursuant to which the uncrowned prince of West Bengal was summoned by the ED is a Court monitored one and the order for ED investigation was directed by the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta,” it said. The usage of “uncrowned prince” is a reference to Abhishek Banerjee being the nephew of Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.
Bagchi’s letter echoes the broad sentiment across the Bengal Congress. On Wednesday, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury appeared to draw a line between the central leadership and state unit’s interest in the ED summons to Abhishek Banerjee.
“We know that this investigation is taking place under court directions and we stand by the people who did not got their due. We, too, demanded an investigation. The decision to express solidarity (with Banerjee) was taken by the 28 parties (of INDIA coalition… they can decide what they will do.”
Asked about the different reactions emerging from the Congress, Abhishek Banerjee on Wednesday said: “KC Venugopal is the Congress General Secretary. Now, I am not aware of the different approach that the INC has in national and state level as I was inside the ED office and did not come across the statements of any political leader. But if at all there is any issue, it is their internal matter and I cannot comment on it.”
Taking potshots at the Congress, BJP state president Sukanto Majumdar said: “The Congress is now Pogo Channel… Their state and national party is different… let them do what they can.”