Somen Mitra (left) and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in file photographs.
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Kolkata: Congress has removed Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the president of its West Bengal unit and has replaced with him party veteran Somen Mitra.

All India Congress Committee general secretary Ashok Gehlot made a written announcement on this today from New Delhi attributing the decision to Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Many believe that the move is aimed at placating Mamata Banerjee, with whom Chowdhury shares a bitter political relation due to Trinamool pouncing upon one after another Congress MLA.

This is because Congress wants Trinamool to be part of the pan India anti-BJP coalition for the Lok Sabha polls next year.

Not only that Chowdhury has been removed from the post of president, his rival in the party Pradip Bhattacharya has been made the chairman of the party’s coordination committee in Bengal.

Bhattacharya was the state Congress president when Congress formed an alliance with Trinamool in 2011 that lasted barely two years. He was re-elected a Rajya Sabha MP last year with the support from Trinamool.

ADHIR RANJAN CHOWDHURY

Chowdhury, once a firebrand anti-CPI-M leader from Murshidabad, now 62, was made the state Congress president in 2014, and since then he had been very vocal against Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool.

He had even played a pivotal role in forming an alliance with CPI-M for the Bengal Assembly elections in 2016, which saw Congress winning a higher number of MLA seats than before.

Chowdhury’s latest salvo at Mamata Banerjee was after the devastating fire at Bagri Market in Kolkata on 17 September. He equated the Bengal Chief Minister with Rome’s emperor Nero as she left on an official tour of Germany and Italy that very day.

SOMEN MITRA

Mitra, 76, on the other hand, was the state Congress president from 1992-98. During his tenure, Mamamata Banerjee broke away from the Congress and formed the Trinamool in 1997. Mitra resident as president after Congress managed to win only one Lok Sabha seat from Bengal in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls.

After staying sidelined in Congress for several years, Mitra formed now extinct political party named Pragatishil Indira Congress in 2008 and disbanded it the very next year to join Trinamool. In 2009, he got elected an MP on a Trinamool ticket from Diamond Harbour seat.

A few months before the end of his MP tenure, Mitra quit from Trinamool and re-joined Congress only to suffer a defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Kolkata North seat. His wife Shikha Mitra, who was elected a Trinamool MLA from Chowringhee seat in Kolkata in 2011, also resigned soon after this.

Since then, both Mitra and his wife were politically almost dormant. Mitra occasionally went to state Congress office on the anniversary of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

REACTIONS

Thus, on being named the state unit president, Mitra said that he learned the development from television news.

“I don’t have the physical ability like before as I am 20 years older since I was the president last time. Still, I shall try to live up to the expectation and try to deliver my responsibilities. I am grateful to Congress high command for reposing faith on me,” he told reporters.

Despite the observation from certain quarters that he has been made president to placate Mamata Banerjee, Mitra on record today hit out at the Trinamool.

“The coalition with Trinamool has not benefited us. The call was for a change and not revenge. But what is going on in Bengal now is only revenge. I don’t think there is any governance in Bengal: only fairs, sporting events, and soiree are on. Chief Minister has been to abroad thrice so far but not a single foreign investment has come to Bengal,” he said.

In his reaction, Chowdhury said that he was not sounded out by the AICC before the abrupt removal as the state unit president. Chowdhury doesn’t seem to be excited at all by the fact that he has now been made the chairman of the state Congress’ campaign committee.

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