Adhir Ranjan Choudhury
Adhir Ranjan Choudhury

Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan has urged party president Sonia Gandhi to appoint Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the next West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief, sources said on Thursday.

The state unit president's post has been lying vacant for more than a month since the death of Somen Mitra.

Mitra's death on July 30 has not just left a deep void in the party but triggered an unprecedented crisis, as the jury is out to choose his successor, who will have to steer the party in the 2021 Assembly elections, they said.

According to sources close to Mannan, who himself is considered as a contender for the post, the senior party leader has written to Gandhi urging her to appoint Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, as the PCC chief for the sake of revival of the state unit and the future of the Left-Congress alliance in West Bengal.

"Mannan has requested Soniaji to appoint Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the state unit president as he is the only Congress leader left in West Bengal with a considerable mass base. His appointment will also help in forging an alliance with the Left in the next Assembly elections," a senior party leader close to Mannan said.

Recollecting the role played by the Mannan-Chowdhury- Mitra trio in allying with the Left during the 2016 Assembly elections, the Congress leader said the vacuum in the state party leadership is affecting the joint movement with the Left.

Mannan, however, declined to comment on the issue.

"Whatever I had to communicate, I have done it. I won't comment on it publicly," he said.

The lack of young turks in the party has left the leadership with a handful of hackneyed options, sources said.

At present, there are only three leaders, in terms of seniority, who could be handed over the baton -- Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, Chowdhury and Mannan. Both Bhattacharya and Chowdhury have earlier served as the PCC chief.

The party's West Bengal in-charge, Gaurav Gogoi, had recently held a meeting with the state leaders on the issue.

"The West Bengal unit of the party has never had any shortage of good leaders in the past. However, at present, there is no promising young leader in the organisation who can helm the state unit," the Congress leader said.

Most Congress leaders known for their organisational or oratory skills have switched over to the Trinamool Congress in the last two decades, leaving a vacuum in the state unit, he said.

The state unit of the Congress has aligned with the CPI(M)-led Left Front to take on the ruling TMC and a growing BJP in the state.

The vacuum in the state Congress leadership comes at a time when the party is trying to offer a third alternative to the people of West Bengal by forging an understanding with the Left parties, ahead of next year's Assembly polls.

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