There is a saying in cricket; a captain is as good as his team. In politics though, the statement often gets reversed. An able leader can rally beleaguered karyakartas (workers) around to again reach out to people. From Narendra Modi nationally to Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, most of these charismatic leaders have managed to raise the profile of their party to a new height. Hard-core supporters of Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury believe he can also revive Congress from near extinction in Bengal.
Adhir, the rebel
In Congress party there is a trend of appointing Gandhi family loyalists in virtually every post. Irrespective of the person’s qualification or worthiness unflinching loyalty to the parivaar was held to be the most important attribute. This has done the party more harm than good. Thus, when Rahul Gandhi sanctioned Adhir Chowdhury’s name as Pradesh Congress Chief of Bengal, it raised much eyebrow. Currently, MOS Railways in the government he is not known to be a submissive leader. In fact there have been instances of Adhir defying state leadership and putting up candidates against his own party in local level elections if he found them not strong enough.
Walks the talk
Adhir Chowdhury is standing for re-election from Baharampur (formerly Behrampore) constituency in Murshidabad district. He is hailed as the king of the district which is a rare Congress dominated island in the sea of TMC’s supremacy. Bahamrampur is a constituency which Adhir is winning from 1999 (Left was still potent force), after it was a bastion of RSP (part of Left Front) for nearly 50 years. He is known for his RobinHood image. Supporters love and adore him whereas opponents complain against his alleged strong arm techniques. Adhir though brushes of all allegations with characteristic nonchalance. He once famously said, “Thakur bolechen majhe majhe fosh kore uthbi, amio tai kori” (Thakur i.e Ramakrishna Paramhamsa Dev said in his preaching not to be docile always, I merely follow that!!)
Mamata’s bête noire
He is a sworn enemy of current Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Ironically, many believe both practises a fairly similar brand of politics. Hailed as messiah by their followers, both leaders have been criticised for having very little patience for dissent and also fiery temper. Both made their name for being symbol of anti –Left movement in the state at a time Congress leaders were ridiculed as Tarmuj (Watermelon, which is green from outside and red from inside).
Adhir believes the no holds bar attack which he did against the Left will also bear fruit against Mamata eventually with anti-incumbency slowly creeping in against the state government. Very recently he created flutter and much heartburn by saying many of the metro projects announced by then Rail Minister Mamata are not viable due to absence of adequate land. He is also a pragmatist who knows his limitation. Thus he recently said that Congress will do good to retain the 6 LokSabha seats it has in Bengal currently. His mandate seems to be to strengthen the party’s organisation, which got eroded after 8 years of alliance with TMC.
Cake-walk in Baharampur?
Surprisingly for all the acrimony against Adhir Chowdhury, Mamata has fielded a relatively lightweight candidate from Baharampur. Singer Indraneel Sen best known for his remake songs (singing past hits with new arrangements) have been roped in to contest against the might of the Union Minister. TMC’s organisation in Murshidabad is relatively weak and with no local leader getting nomination, workers have almost given up the fight. But Left has a strong candidate in Promothes Mukherjee of RSP, who has won this seat twice before. It will certainly not be a cake-walk but most believe Adhir will pull through comfortably. His supporters see him occupying the CM’s post in future. Adhir is in no hurry though; he is here for the long game….