" People's discontent against the Trinamool has turned into disgust, he said."
By Anurag Dey

Kolkata, Aug 23 - The Congress is on a weak wicket in West Bengal but is supremely confident of regaining lost ground, says state party president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

No doubt we now stand on a weak wicket and have been eclipsed by our rivals in many places, the former minister of state for railways said in an interview.

This happened only because we failed to assert ourselves and allowed defeatism to rule the roost, Chowdhury, 58, told IANS in an interview.

He however exuded confidence that the Congress would regain lost ground by exploiting people's growing disgust against the Trinamool Congress government.

The Congress is eyeing a comeback in next year's municipal elections and the 2016 assembly polls, he said.

Murshidabad strongman Chowdhury led the Congress in the Lok Sabha election when it won four of the six seats it had won five years back. Nationally, however, the Congress fared far worse, suffering its worst electoral disaster. Overall, it won only 44 Lok Sabha seats -- a steep fall from the 206 seats it bagged nationally in 2009.

In West Bengal, the Congress slipped to the fourth position in vote share (nine percent) after the Trinamool, the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Chowdhury, named the state Congress president ahead of the general election, admitted his party has been eclipsed by rivals and was now on a weak wicket in the state where it once was the dominant force.

He went on: Wherever we have been able to assert ourselves, we have done well. We can never survive if we allow rivals to dominate. We have to assert ourselves to regain the lost ground. And we are confident of doing that because we have substantial political fodder this time.

Chowdhury, who represents Baharampur in the Lok Sabha, refused to give much importance to the BJP's surprise showing in West Bengal where its vote share nearly trebled to 17 percent compared to 2009.

In state elections, the dynamics are vastly different. The (Narendra) Modi government is yet to make a mark. The euphoria surrounding (Prime Minister) Modi has subsided. The Modi factor is no more, he said.

Despite the BJP becoming assertive in the state after the Lok Sabha election when it led in 24 assembly segments, the Congress leader rejected the BJP's claim that the state's political dynamics had changed.

The BJP is yet to make inroads in assembly polls. The only alternative to the Trinamool the people have is the Congress, a party of proven credentials, he said.

It was the Congress which built Bengal while the Left Front and Trinamool destroyed it. As regards the BJP, the people of Bengal have always resented communal and casteist politics.

The Congress has faced a steady stream of desertions. Several legislators have switched allegiance. Such was the voting against it in the Lok Sabha election that some heavyweights forfeited their security deposit.

This has hit party morale but Chowdhury seems unfazed. He argued that the party's traditional vote bank - minorities - were not veering away.

It's a wrong assumption that minority voters have deserted us. Trinamool's pro-Muslim antics and the BJP's Hindutva cannot always lead to polarisation, he insisted.

Even as he said that the Congress gave equal weightage to the BJP, the Left and the Trinamool, Chowdhury trained all his guns at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with whom his party allied in the 2011 assembly polls, bagging 42 seats -- double its 2006 tally.

The Mamata government has been a complete failure. From industry to job creation to law and order, everything has been a disaster, he said, ruling out any alliance with the Trinamool.

People's discontent against the Trinamool has turned into disgust, he said.

(Anurag Dey can be contaced at [email protected])

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