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Is Cong desperate to clean up the Bengal mess?

March 21, 2012 23:13 IST

The Congress was in a tizzy trying to clean up its own mess in West Bengal, worried that it will have to get its own candidate defeated in West Bengal in the Rajya Sabha elections, or else face Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee rocking the United Progressive Alliance government's boat.

The new crisis of its own making is complicated since senior party leader Abdul Mannan it fielded is now refusing to play the ball when the party wanted him to withdraw as part of the changed strategy. It means a definite backlash of Mamata if one of her four candidates is defeated because of Mannan in the fray.

Withdrawals for the March 30 poll close on Thursday. 

Mannan is, however, sure of winning as he has arranged the surplus votes from both Trinamul and the Left and hence he is not willing to pull out. If he wins either way, the Congress fears that Mamata will kick him out of the UPA.

In the 294-member state assembly, the Congress has 42 members of Legislative Assembly and hence Mannan needs just eight votes from outside to win. After getting own candidate win one of the five seats, the Left has 10 extra votes to spare, but its help will make Mamata go red as the Congress-Left plot to bring down her government, said a source.

With Trinamul's strength of 185, she can get only three candidates elected as it requires the first preference votes of 50 MLAs to win each seat. She has, however, fielded four candidates -- Railway Minister Mukul Roy and three local journalists.

The State Congress strategy was to pinch some from the remaining 35 votes left with Trinamul to let Mannan win as a snub to Mamata refusing to give a helping hand and the central leaders went by the tactic until Wednesday evening.

Then it dawned to them, after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Congress president Sonia Gandhi that it will sure upset Mamata as she cannot tolerate the Congress breaking into her party.

She was already suspecting the Congress trying to split the Trinamool in Parliament when she pressed for Dinesh Trivedi's sack as the railway minister, Pranab pointed out.

The Congress worry is that it can not adopt the strategy the BJP chose to shut the storm over backing NRI Anshuman Mishra as an independent by asking all its MLAs in Jharkhand to abstain from voting.

Mishra was not the BJP candidate and so the party could dump him. "How can we ask the Congress MLAs to abstain or not to vote a Congress candidate in the fray? How can we work for defeat of own candidate," asked a senior party leader engaged in the crisis management.
A correspondent in New Delhi