Changing its earlier stance, the West Bengal Congress on Monday announced it has decided to field a candidate against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the September 30 by-poll in the Bhabanipur assembly seat and the name of the party nominee will be sent to AICC for consent. The decision made at a Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) meeting to contest the by-election came at a time when the party and the Mamata Banerjee-headed Trinamool Congress are maintaining a bonhomie at the national level since July.
"Majority of our members were in favour of contesting against Trinamool and we have decided to field our candidate from that seat (Bhabanipur). We will fight the elections with Left Front and announce candidates after discussion with them," state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told a press conference.
During the assembly elections held earlier this year, TMC nominee Sovandeb Chattopadhyay won from Bhabanipur in south Kolkata and he has vacated the seat later necessitating the by-poll. The Congress, which fought the polls in alliance with the Left parties, fielded a candidate from there.
Chowdhury, who had earlier advocated not to put up any candidate against Banerjee in Bhabanipur as a matter of courtesy, said the ruling party is not showing political courtesy.
The TMC recently attacked Congress workers and demonstrated against opposition leaders like him, Chowdhury alleged. The TMC, however, did not attach any importance to the Congress' decision to contest the by-poll from Bhabanipur.
"The Congress and the Left are two big zeroes in terms of their influence in the state. When you add two zeros, you get another zero," TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said.
The Congress and TMC have been showing closeness to each other at the national level of late. The TMC supremo in July went to Delhi in a bid to bring together the non-BJP forces ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. She met senior opposition leaders including AICC president Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence. The Congress had then also tweeted, along with a photograph of TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, claiming that Mamata Banerjee's nephew is a victim of Pegasus spyware snooping.
Banerjee had moved out of her traditional Bhabanipur seat to fight in Nandigram during the assembly polls but lost to Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP. After the election results were out, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay who won from Bhabanipur vacated the seat to allow Banerjee to contest from there. Banerjee had won from Bhabanipur twice since 2011.
The TMC supremo has to win this by-poll to retain her chief minister's post. The by-poll will be held on September 30 along with the elections to two seats in Murshidabad district - Samserganj and Jangipur - where polling was countermanded during the eight-phase assembly elections earlier this year due to death of candidates.
"It is unfortunate that we cannot field a candidate from our party from Samserganj. We cannot force anyone," Chowdhury said.
The party cannot field any new candidate from the Samserganj seat as per rules. Its candidate Amirul Islam recently expressed unwillingness to contest. Jakir Hossain is the CPI(M) candidate from Jangipur.
The notification for the Bhabanipur bypoll was issued on September 6, beginning the nomination process. September 13 is the last date of filing nominations, while scrutiny of papers will take place on September 14. September 16 is the last date to withdraw from the electoral battle. Counting will be held on October 3.