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Rabi Banerjee
Rabi Banerjee


West Bengal: Congress high command in a spot over Manas Bhunia's defiance

Manas-Bhunia-mamata (File) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Manas Bhunia share a same stage at Bengal Leads Programme in Kolkata | Salil Bera/THE WEEK

Congress MLA Manas Bhunia is at the centre of an ongoing infighting in the Congress party in West Bengal. He has drawn the ire of the partymen and put the high command in a spot by accepting his appointment as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in spite of a strong opposition from his own party.

The Congress wanted to offer the PAC chairmanship to CPI(M) MLA Sujan Chakraborty based on the recommendations of the Leader of Opposition and Congress veteran Abdul Mannan.

The proposal had the blessings of Pradesh Congress President Adhir Chowdhury and was also green-lit by party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. When everything seems to be going smoothly and according to the plan, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoiled the party for the Congress-Left alliance.

Mamata advised the Speaker of the House to name Bhunia as the chairman of the newly constituted PAC as she knew Bhunia was not a supporter of the Congress-Left alliance. Bhunia accepted the post and even got a chamber of his choice in the Bidhan Sabha (state assembly).

On July 4, Speaker Biman Banerjee named Bhunia the PAC chairman. The Speaker justified the appointment, saying he just followed the tradition by offering the position to the main opposition.

Though Mannan asked Bhunia to decline the offer, the latter refused to do so, prompting the former to stage a walk out with his supporters.

“I think Manas Babu should quit the post as it was promised to the Left. But I don’t want to make further comment as the matter is being discussed by the high command in Delhi,” said Mannan.

Leaders of both the Congress and the Left have expressed their discontent over the manner in which Bhunia disobeyed the party's order. The issue was further escalated and Bhunia was summoned to Delhi by Rahul.

Bhunia's defiance to the party's position stems from the fact that he was not given the position of the leader of the opposition, despite his credentials as one of the senior Congress leaders in the state.

Mannan was chosen to become the leader of the opposition, a cabinet rank, seemingly as a reward for engineering the alliance between the Congress and the Left in the recent assembly elections. And, the PAC chairman post was earmarked for Chakraborty to keep the Left happy.

“What can I do? I am a senior Congress leader and have won the maximum number of times than most of the leaders in the assembly. It was the Speaker's decision. I did not ask for it,” Bhunia argued.

Bhunia may not have asked for it, but, he is not ready to give up the post either.

At Tuesday's meeting Rahul had reportedly asked Bhunia to follow the orders of state leadership, which he refused.

Bhunia's meeting with Rahul was inconclusive. Now back in Kolkata, Bhunia seemed to be firm on his decision, tossing the ball back to the Congress' court. He is also likely to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi soon.

A final decision on the matter, however, will be taken once Rahul returns to Delhi as he is currently touring the poll-bound states.

Well-placed sources told THE WEEK that if Bhunia is forced to resign as the PAC chairman, he may join the Trinamool Congress, given that he enjoys a good rapport with Mamata.

“Manas da will get a key cabinet post if he joins Trinamool Congress,” sources said.

Amid speculations, Bhunia, however, declared, “I have no other leaders other than Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.”

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