MP's arrest a rallying issue for West Bengal Congress

Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: With the Assembly elections due next year, the Congress leadership in West Bengal, riven by factionalism, appears determined to make last month's arrest of party MP Adhir Chowdhury, charged with double murder, a rallying issue for closing ranks.

At a rally held here on Saturday to protest against the arrest, senior leaders including Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, called for unity within the party as part of its preparations to take on the Left Front in the polls.

"Potent force in jail"

"It will be wrong to assume that the morale of party workers has been dented with the arrest of Adhir Chowdhury," said Mr. Mukherjee, who is also president of the Pradesh Congress Committee.

"On the contrary, his incarceration only enthuses Congress workers all the more... He can be a more potent force inside the jail than outside."

Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that even though the Communist movement in the country was older than the "forces which had taken control of power in the country for six years [Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies], the influence of the Left has been confined to three parts [West Bengal, Agartala and Kerala]."

Protest programme

He announced a series of protest programmes till the first week of February, when the party will organise a march to the Secretariat.

The arrest was part of the Left Front's "design to force entry into the Congress strongholds in the State," Mr. Dasmunsi said. "We have had enough of differences and misunderstandings [within the party]. No more, it's time for all of us to come together and resist the move."