Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury takes charge as president of West Bengal pradesh Congress

Published : September 10, 2020 16:17 IST

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress stalwart from West Bengal and leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, , has once again taken charge as head of the party in the State. The position of Pradesh Congress president fell vacant with the death of Somen Mitra on July 30 this year. On September 9, a press release from the All India Congress Committee stated, “Hon’ble Congress president has appointed Shri Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) with immediate effect. At this juncture the party also remembers the services of late Shri Somen Mitra, a veteran Congressman, whose untimely demise has left a void amongst all Congress workers….”

With the Assembly elections in the State due in 2021, the party high command’s move to elevate Adhir in the State in spite of all his responsibilities at the Centre is significant. In 2014, he was first was made Pradesh Congress president, and was instrumental in the party forging an electoral understanding with the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front against the ruling Trinamool Congress for the 2016 Assembly election. In 2018, even after he was suddenly replaced by Somen Mitra in the post he continued to play a key role in the talks with the Left for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

The five-time Lok Sabha MP from Berhampore in Murshidabad district has been a towering figure not just in the Congress, but also in Bengal politics. Pradesh Congress general secretary and party spokesperson Amitabha Chakraborty told Frontline, “Adhirda is undoubtedly one of the most popular political figures in the State. He is also the Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, so we now also have a national face leading the party in the State. Everybody in the State Congress is happy that such a powerful figure is at the helm before the election.” Amitabha feels that should the AICC decide to go ahead with an electoral understanding with the Left, then “Adhir’s presence will certainly expedite the process”.

However, there are also quite a few within the Congress who have reservations about Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury taking over the reins of the party. Many feel his style of functioning is too autocratic and against the democratic tradition prevalent within the Congress. “It was clear from his earlier stint as Pradesh president that he wanted to run the party in his own way. But that is not possible in a party like the Congress. One has to take everybody aboard, and Adhir Chowdhury is not capable of doing that. Many also feel that because of his rigid attitude the alliance with the Left may also ultimately not work out,” a senior Congress leader told Frontline.

Sujan Chakraborty of the CPI(M), who is the leader of the Left Legislature Party in the West Bengal Assembly, feels that the time has come for all opposition parties (with the exception of the Bharatiya Janata Party) to come together to defeat the Trinamool. He told Frontline: “To defeat the BJP, we will have to first defeat the Trinamool. If the Trinamool remains, the BJP will keep growing automatically. All secular political forces must come together to defeat them. The situation is no different from the period before Adhir Chowdhury became the PCC president.”

However, there are also quite a few in the Left who feel that Adhir may be a tough customer to deal with as an alliance partner. “While Somen Mitra was a seasoned political person, who could get along with all alliance partners, Adhir is a little too rigid and is known to be pronouncedly biased towards his own party to allow for any give-and-take in political negotiations,” said a senior CPI(M) source.

Given the present situation in which both the Congress and the Left are struggling to remain relevant in Bengal politics, Adhir’s primary work would be to stop the decline of his party. In a press conference soon after assuming his new role, he said, “Many of our party members have left either for the Trinamool or for the BJP. I appeal to them to return and we will treat with the proper respect.”