Congress’s dissident lobby is making its presence felt, embarrassingly so, on the verge of a string of politically significant state elections. Today, senior leader Anand Sharma went public against the party’s West Bengal strategy, asserting that the Congress could not be selective about its fight against communal forces.
The former Union Minister was apparently referring to visuals of Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury at a rally with the Left and the ISF (Indian Secular Front).
“Congress’s alliance with the ISF and similar parties goes against its core ideology, and the secularism advocated by Gandhi and Nehru, which is the soul of the Congress. These issues should have been discussed by the Congress Working Committee (CWC),” Mr Sharma tweeted in Hindi.
“In the fight against communalism, the Congress cannot be selective. We must fight against communalism in all forms. The West Bengal Congress chief’s presence and support is shameful, he has to explain his stand,” he added.
Mr Chowdhury retorted that he never took any decision without a signoff by his leadership in Delhi.
“We are in charge of a state and don’t take any decision on our own without any permission,” he was quoted as telling news agency ANI.
The Congress’s Bengal plan ranges it against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the upcoming Bengal election even though she is battling a massive challenge by the BJP – a common enemy.
The key opposition party also finds itself on the same side as the Left, its direct rival in Kerala.
Bengal Congress leaders, including Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, have reportedly expressed misgivings about the tie-up with the ISF led by Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui.
Abbas Siddiqui, also known as “Bhaijaan” by his supporters, is notorious for controversial comments during his religious speeches over the years. The Left, however, denies that the outfit is communal.
Anand Sharma’s public condemnation of his own party unit comes after another Congress veteran, Ghulam Nabi Azad, praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly.
Both Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad are part of what has come to be known since last year as the “G-23” or the group of 23 dissidents who wrote a letter calling for “full-time and visible leadership” and suggesting sweeping organizational changes.
“I like a lot of things about many leaders. I’m from a village and am proud of that… I’m also proud that leaders like our Prime Minister, who used to sell tea, also come from villages. We may be rivals but I appreciate he doesn’t hide his true self,” Mr Azad said at an event in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Those who do… are living in a bubble. A man should be proud (of who he is and where he comes from),” added the former Rajya Sabha member.
A day before, several dissidents had gathered and said they feared the Congress was getting weak ahead of five key Assembly polls.
“The truth is that we see the Congress getting weak. That is why we have gathered. We gathered earlier too and we have to strengthen the party together,” said Kapil Sibal, another member of the G-23.