All the recently elected 44 party MLAs were made to sign a bond at a closed-door meet presided by Bengal state party committee chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.Struggling to keep its flock together in many states, the Congress has now asked all the newly elected lawmakers in West Bengal to sign a bond of allegiance that will stop them from defecting to other parties especially the Trinamool Congress.
According to Congress insiders, all the recently elected 44 party MLAs were made to sign a bond at a closed-door meet presided by Bengal state party committee chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. The MLAs were made to sign the written pact that they would remain loyal to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and would never make any negative comment or indulge in anti-party activities.The bond, which were made on Rs 100 stamp paper, states, "I do swear my unqualified allegiance to Indian National Congress led by Hon'ble Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi Ji and Hon'ble Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi Ji."
"I, as a member of the legislative assembly, will not get involved in any anti-party activity. Even if I do not agree with any party policy and/or party decision, I will not make any negative comment thereon and/or I shall not take any negative action to the detriment of the party. In such a scenario, I shall resign from my post of MLA before making such comment and/or taking such action."
The move has clearly come as an embarrassment and the party high command is reported to be unhappy. Sources say, the Congress central leadership was unaware of the decision and that the state unit was solely responsible for the act. Congress central leaders refused to comment on the development, even as WBPCC chief defended the move, saying that there was nothing wrong in showing one's allegiance to the party.
"It is more of a voluntary pledge by our partymen. It is not something which we have forced on our people," Chowdhury explained.
Faced with a crisis of survival, veteran state leaders like Abdul Mannan echo Chowdhury's concern. "Nobody forced us to do it. There have been many instances when people who had won on a Congress ticket had moved away from the party. So we decided to sign the bond and support Sonia and Rahul Ji," Mannan said. The move has set tongues wagging, especially at a time when there is talk about the need for a leadership change in the Congress. Just a week back, senior leader Digvijaya Singh had told India Today that the grand old party requires an immediate rejig. "We have done enough introspection. Shouldn't we go for a major surgery?" asked the AICC General Secretary.
The Trinamool, which has been accused of poaching several Congress leaders in the past said the move is a clear indication that the party was in a disarray. "I think it is ridiculous, undemocratic and meaningless. It only shows the jittery condition of the Congress leaders. There is also the talk of surgery in the Congress, so they want to ensure that there is no surgery," veteran Trinamool MP Sougata Roy said.
Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh has termed it a drastic attempt to salvage the party. "Forcing and threatening leaders to remain in the party like this is not going to work. There is now a serious doubt about the Congress's existence. They are being uprooted everywhere in the country," Ghosh said.
Over the past 5 years, several congress leaders in Bengal have switched over to the Trinamool Congress. The Congress has emerged as the main Opposition in West Bengal in the just concluded Assembly polls pushing the Left to the third position.However, the party leadership is now jittery that its MLAs may switch sides and join the Mamata brigade following her massive mandate. The TMC secured over two-thirds majority capturing 211 seats in 294-member West Bengal assembly.
Recently, nine Congress MLAs deflected to the BJP in Uttarakahand triggering a massive political crisis in the hill state. The Centre imposed President's Rule in Uttarakhand on March 27 but the Supreme Court quashed the order a month later.