Unsure of political future, Adhir braces for ‘hard times’ ahead

West Bengal Congress President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury addresses the media, in Kolkata, Thursday, May 16, 2024.
West Bengal Congress President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury addresses the media, in Kolkata, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Kolkata | A day after his defeat from the Baharampur parliamentary constituency, veteran Congress leader and five-time MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Wednesday said he wasn’t certain of what his political future would look like.

The party’s prime mover in West Bengal and the state Pradesh Congress president was stunned by Trinamool Congress’s star candidate and cricketer-turned-politician Yusuf Pathan who comprehensively defeated Chowdhury by a margin of over 85,000 votes.

With Chowdhury vanquished, Congress lost its political grip over Baharampur, which was among the last standing Congress bastions of the state, and was reduced to a party with just the Malda Dakshin seat from Bengal.

Speaking to a Bengali TV channel at his Baharampur residence, Chowdhury said he was apprehending “hard times” for himself in the days ahead.

“In my endeavour to fight this government, I have neglected my sources of income. I call myself a BPL MP. I have no other skills apart from politics. So I will have difficulties for myself in the days ahead and I have no clue how to overcome them,” the 68-year-old leader said.

Chowdhury confirmed he would be visiting the Capital soon to vacate his MP residence. “My daughter is a student and uses the place sometimes for her studies. I will have to find a new place there since I don’t have one,” he said.

Speaking on Mamata Banerjee’s post-poll proximity to the INDIA bloc, Chowdhury said he never objected to the TMC’s presence in the opposition platform but agreed that he held his ground before the party’s high command in resisting an alliance with Banerjee which he felt would be tantamount to committing a political hara-kiri.

Asked whether he would continue as state PCC chief, the leader said, “I have accepted my defeat in the polls and had previously wanted to relinquish my post urging my leaders to find someone more able than me for the job. I stayed back on the requests of Sonia Gandhi. I have received no calls from my leaders yet. I will repeat my will to my party once I get that call.”

Chowdhury said it was the party’s discretion to not send any leader to campaign in Baharampur and that he had no comments to make about that.

“We took part in Rahul Gandhi’s East-West Bharat Jodo Yatra when it reached Murshidabad. Our party president Mallikarjun Kharge campaigned in Malda once but never came to Baharampur. That was a call of our central leadership about which I have nothing to say,” he said.

Casting serious apprehensions of post-poll violence and backlash on Congress workers in the state from Trinamool, Chowdhury urged Mamata Banerjee to ensure the security of his supporters.

“The state is now conquered. What’s the point in targeting our workers now? Punish me all you want for opposing you, but leave my workers alone. They don’t deserve to be punished for supporting the Congress,” Chowdhury said in a pleading tone.

An MP from Baharampur since 1999 this was perhaps Chowdhury’s toughest electoral challenge which came in the form of Pathan, the non-resident TMC candidate from Gujarat.

Believed to be in defiance of the wishes of the Congress high command, Chowdhury was instrumental in stitching a seat-sharing arrangement with the Left in Bengal to take on the Banerjee-led ruling dispensation in the current elections despite Congress and TMC remaining stakeholders in the opposition’s INDIA bloc at the national level.

A vociferous critic of Banerjee since the Congress’s alliance with the TMC fell through after the 2011 Assembly polls and subsequent erosion of the former’s political foothold in the state bolstered by large-scale defections to the Trinamool, Chowdhury has consistently built his political narrative advocating for an alliance with the Left to simultaneously fight BJP and TMC in Bengal.

That alliance, forged in the 2016 and 2021 state polls and which partially materialized into a seat-sharing arrangement in the 2019 general elections, was believed to be working better in the current edition of the Lok Sabha polls.

However, with both the vote share and the number of seats of Left-Congress combine sliding further in Bengal compared to its 2019 figures, that perception turned out to be a myth that the hard ground reality of poll turf has now busted.

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