Officially, all senior leaders promised cooperation. But below the surface, dissatisfaction simmers. Even leaders of North Bengal, a Congress stronghold, are not happy. Pradip Bhattacharjee, working president of state Congress was sidelined by the Congress Central leadership, which accepted Bhuniya as Pranab Mukherjee’s choice. “I have been with Congress for 26 years,” said a peeved Bhattacharjee. “I have given my life to the party. However, it is a high command decision. I will not quit the party and will cooperate with Manas.”
Asked if he was ignored because of the breach of alliance with Mamata Banerjee in the municipal polls, Bhattacharjee said, “It was a collective decision where other leaders were involved.” Even leaders of North Bengal, Deepa Dasmunsi and Adhir Choudhury, appeared perturbed. The former, according to party sources, has expressed her displeasure over the appointment. “I have no interest in this matter, but the post of Pradesh president is an important one,” said Adhir Choudhury, MP and Congress strongman from Murshidabad. “If whoever appointed works the right way, Congress will be rejuvenated in Bengal. It is a decision of the Central leadership and I have nothing to say.”
Shankar Singh, district president of Nadia, did not seem happy either. “It is a decision of the High Command,” was all he would say. “Pranab Mukherjee needed an ‘yes man’ when it comes to crucial seat sharing talks for the upcoming Assembly elections and therefore the appointment,” said a senior party leader.
According to Congress sources, Bhattacharjee was ignored because of his staunch criticism of Mamata Banerjee and for breach of state-level alliance with Trinamool during the municipal elections. The Congress thereafter did badly, including in the crucial Kolkata Municipal Corporation, mustering only 10 seats out of 141.
“A section of leaders led by Pradip Bhattacharjee took the call on breach of alliance and assured Pranab Mukherjee that Congress will do well alone,” said a senior leader of Congress. Relations between Bhattacharjee and Pranab Mukherjee and the Congress high command soured thereafter. “Which was also why after the elections, Manas Bhuniya not Pradip Bhattacharjee was asked to choose the Congress leader in KMC,” he added.