Rahul Gandhi has done two tours of Tamil Nadu, one of Assam and of course, Kerala. But it is Bengal which has so far remained untouched and this is where the dilemma of the Congress arises.
Sailing in two boats is never easy but if you have to do it in politics, its considered an art. Sources in Bengal Congress say that as an MP from Kerala where its a fierce fight with the Left in the upcoming polls, an alliance with the Left in Bengal is tough enough to explain but to be seen sharing the stage with them will be tougher. The Left has invited Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi for a rally on February 28 in Bengal but so far, no decision has been taken.
One solution that is being looked at is to send Priyanka Gandhi for a couple of tours, with Rahul Gandhi being used sparingly. This, Bengal Congress feels, could shield Rahul Gandhi for whom a Kerala win is critical. If after losing Amethi, Congress loses in gods own country, it would be detrimental for Rahul Gandhis reputation and prestige and would only help the BJP sharpen attacks on him.
Another concern is whether an aggressive Congress campaign will help BJP and dent West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjees prospects in the state. While there is no love lost between the TMC and Congress in the state, especially after the appointment of known Mamata Banerjee-baiter Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as state chief and alliance with the Left, Congress is also aware that a defeated Banerjee would make things tougher for the Oppositions fight against the BJP in 2024.
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So, the Gandhis may keep the focus of their attacks in Bengal more on the BJP and less on the TMC. Just recently, when Dinesh Trivedi resigned from Rajya Sabha, Chowdhury told Network18 that this is no loss for the TMC. Dinesh Trivedi is a parasite and has no locus standi. The TMC saw this as a welcome statement and hopes that as campaigning gets shriller, the Congress goes softer and doesnt divide votes.
Recently, Sougato Roy of TMC had also suggested that all opposition parties like Congress and Left must come together in Bengal to keep the BJP away. It was then vociferously rejected by the Congress but as the game is getting tougher, there could be a re-think to at least have an informal understanding.
Also learning from the Bihar example, where Congress wanted to fight in maximum seats which dented RJDs chance to win the polls, this time Congress wont insist on contesting on almost all seats.
After all, for Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, the bigger enemy is the BJP. As BJP gets more aggressive in Bengal, many in Bengal Congress feel its better to give up a bit for a larger purpose which is to keep BJP away.